FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Seven professional athletes and sports commentators along with a bus load of Fox Sports Girls got a sneak peek into the life of the 101st Airborne Division, Monday, when "Fox Sports 1" traveled to post as a part of their summer bus tour.
While viewers can tune into the new 24-hour sports network starting Saturday, which will offer live game coverage, original programming, news and more, the stop was about more than just promotion. It allowed the sports world to express their appreciation to U.S. Army Soldiers.
As a part of the visit, the athletes and FOX Sports girls from across the country revved up with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans" for morning physical training and completed an indoor obstacle course event with their 101st Sustainment Brigade "Lifeliner" teammates. In the afternoon, they visited with Fort Campbell High School athletes and even spoke with 2nd Brigade Combat Team "Strike" combatives Soldiers before wrapping up the day by rappelling off the famous 34-foot tower at the Sabalauski Air Assault School on post.
The athletes and commentators on the tour at Fort Campbell included Jeffrey Hammond and Danielle Trotta, NASCAR; Jake Ellenberger and Liz Carmouche, UFC; José Tolentino, MLB; Stuart Grimson, NHL; and Frankie Hejduk; MLS.
Sweat dripped off the participants at Lozada Physical Fitness Facility as teams completed the obstacle course full of box jumps, kettlebell lifts and ammo can carries. A crowd of Soldiers from the 101st Sustainment Brigade cheered on their comrades with foam fingers provided by the "FOX Sports 1" team.
In the end, 716th Military Police Battalion Soldiers won the indoor obstacle challenge along with their visiting counterparts. It was an eye-opening experience for both the Soldiers and athletes involved.
"It's cool, because now they can witness what we do on a daily basis," said Pfc. Damaris Gonzalez, 194th MP Company. "They know really what we go through, and they actually did really well. I don't know how they work out every day, but they did really good on all the obstacle courses, which is surprising."
Hammond worked as NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip's crew chief and with other drivers before becoming a broadcaster with FOX Sports in 2000.
"It just gives you a greater appreciation of what they do every day to stay ready for whatever may come their way," he said, wiping sweat off his brow. "They're always so gracious and make you feel like you're appreciated, and it's really the other way around. We really appreciate what they do and the hard work [and] the training that goes into becoming a part of the 101st and being a part of our military."
Hammond also spoke with great admiration about the history of the Screaming Eagles -- calling them "the cream of the crop."
"I'm all about history, because NASCAR's all about history, and I think this group right here is the same way," he added. "I love it, because you get a chance to really share in the pride that they have in what they do here and who they are."
By leading random chants of "USA! USA!" and on-the-spot patriotic songs throughout the day, Hejduk took top prize in American spirit. Hejduk is fresh off a 16-year career where he competed in two World Cups and two Olympic Games, as well as earning two MLS Cup championships.
"Without these guys defending our country and these warriors doing what they do, I wouldn't be able to fulfill my dream," he said. "These guys are fulfilling many people's dreams. They might not know it. They might not hear it enough. We're here to help them and to tell them and let them hear that."
Hejduk expressed his admiration for the abilities of 101st Soldiers to perform full-speed no matter the circumstances.
"I only thought I was going to be doing the PT, the physical training, so I went all out this morning doing that," Hejduk added. "Then we did the obstacle competition … it's really cool to see how hard these guys work and how easy they make it look."
While at FCHS later, the pros addressed many students hoping to achieve the same level of success. One meaningful conversation occurred when Falcons' baseball player Omar Mascarenas approached Tolentino who played for the Houston Astros in 1991. The pair stood for several minutes in the middle of the high school gym, demonstrating moves and talking about life.
"He said to not let anyone put you down. Just aim for your goals," Omar said, with a smile on his face. "He told me just to work hard; be yourself; don't let anyone tell you otherwise. [If they say] you're not going to make it to the big shots, you got to prove them wrong. You got to work even harder just to prove to them and show them that you can."
As the heat waned in the late afternoon, the FOX Sports guests marched as Air Assault School students up to the famed tower. They donned ACU tops as the school's instructors roped them in place.
"It was amazing. I was a little bit scared at first," said Katie, the Fox Sports San Diego Girl. The Fox Sports Girls' last names are omitted due to privacy concerns. "Then, as I started going it was just so fun, and now that I know a little more about how it feels, I want to do it again."
While the "Fox Sports 1" road trip is scheduled to appear at several more stops before ending in Boston, Katie was glad to get the opportunity to visit Fort Campbell.
"I've absolutely loved it -- every single minute of it," she said. "It's so fun to get to talk to all the Soldiers and really see where they come from and personally thank them for all their service. They truly are amazing, and it's such an awesome experience."