TORRINGTON – The roaring, cracking, heart-rattling sound of 15-20 motorcycles revving their motors has greeted Torrington football players on their way to Wiseman Field for the past several years.
Thunder Road is in its fourth year in Torrington and was started by Stephen Easton, now an assistant coach for the Blazers.
“Thunder Road all stems back to when I played college football at Black Hills State,” Easton said. “During Homecoming, we got a group of local veterans that would bring down their bikes – it was 3, 4 or 5 bikes – for our Homecoming and we would run through it. It was an awesome feeling and I enjoyed it as a player.
“When I came back home, my dad has a bike and I’ve rode motorcycles ever since I could. I knew a couple guys so I said ‘Hey, let’s get this put together and get a couple bikes here during games,’” he added.
From the first year that the bikes arrived, to this season, Chris Waller has been a part of the group. This season, he took over administrative duties and organizes the bikes for every home game. He said that most of the riders are local, but a majority of them do not have a direct stake in Blazer football.
“Maybe five riders (have a player on the team), but the rest do it because we are bikers and we stick together,” Waller said. “It’s a big family. All these guys here are a big family. We are like brothers and sisters.”
The group of brothers and sisters has taken a vision that Easton once had, and has continued to grow it.
“When we first started it, we just wanted to do it for Homecoming and playoffs, but we have gotten such a good group of guys that they have told me they are going to do it every home game,” Easton said. “I didn’t think that we would have as good a showing as we did. It’s cold – it’s 30 degrees – and we have guys riding 10 miles into town on their motorcycles.”
Waller, who plans on helping guide Thunder Road next year and sees it continuing for years to come, said there is one reason he does it.
“The kids. It’s a big morale booster for the kids,” he said. “I wish I had this when I was in football but I just love doing it for the kids.”
In the four years since Thunder Road has taken off, the Blazers are 15-5 in home games, including three playoff wins in Torrington.
“You most definitely get a rush, I can tell you that,” Torrington coach Mark Lenhardt said. “Any time you can get people that fired up about Blazers football, it’s a good thing. I have to thank those guys for all that they do.”
Easton said now as a coach, he still gets the same feelings he did as a player. He added that he isn’t sure if it has a huge impact on every member of the roster, but it definitely adds to the home field advantage.
“It makes me feel like I’m back in uniform running through there. Just the rumble of the bikes is awesome,” he said. “Some of our guys are so laid back that I don’t know what it does for them. I just know that we play awesome when the bikers show up. I’m proud to be part of something like that and I’m proud of our community for coming together for us.”