A piece of the Colorado football program is being lost amid the millions of dollars of construction and renovations taking place at Folsom Field.
It's a trade the Buffs are willing to make for the future of the program but it's a bittersweet goodbye for many of the great Buffs of yesteryear.
One common experience that bonds players in the program together over the decades is the walk to and from practices up and down the hill immediately north of Folsom Field. One of two paths down the hill — the one most often used in recent decades — has been torn up in the construction and a fence barricades the bridge across the creek with a sign directing users to a detour.
When the project is completed sometime next fall, a small parking lot will be located in the area where the hill is now. Those sometimes brutal reflective walks from practice up the hill to the locker room in the August heat or November and December cold will be a thing of the past.
"I think most guys will be sad to see it go," said Medford Moorer, a former CU safety who graduated in 2003 and is now assistant director for academics. "That hill was there for a long time and there are memories upon memories of guys. When it rained out here and there was lightning we would run up that hill to get out of the lightning to the safety of Dal Ward.
"There was also some guys who sat there and cried on that hill cause that day on the field you went through a battle and you and the coach had some fond words. That hill gave you an opportunity to think about what you just learned."
Former CU receiver Scotty McKnight said players might not be so fond of the hill in the middle of their careers knowing there are plenty more trips up and down it to come, but when players move on, it's definitely a strong part of their memories.
"That hill represents a love-hate conflict that every player to wear a Buffs' jersey can understand," McKnight said.
Former CU wide receiver Patrick Williams remembers walking down the hill one night after practice and stopping in his tracks when he and a deer noticed each other just yards away. After a stare down, the deer bolted into the trees and Williams bolted for his car in the parking lot below.
Williams joined the program in 2004 as a product of DeSoto, Texas, and now works as a graduate assistant on Mike MacIntyre's coaching staff. He said early in his career the hill was used in the offseason as part of the strength and conditioning program, which is another piece of common ground many former Buffs share.
"You associate it with the program," Williams said. "You know what it feels like when you've got 12 hills and it's 101 degrees out in the summertime and everyone is hot and you walk down the stairs and the dust is kicking up. You can just associate certain memories with that hill."
Estes Banks played fullback for the Buffs in the mid-1960s after being recruited from Washington High School in Los Angeles. His was a different era in the college game. There were far fewer rules in place governing player safety and how much time coaches could force players to practice. There were also large squad sizes because there were no scholarship limits.
One rule that was in place made freshmen ineligible to play in varsity games. CU had a freshman team of more than 60 players at the time and it practiced on the fields north of Boulder Creek while the varsity practiced on what is now Franklin Field.
"Our practices were a whole lot longer than they are now and our practices were no water," he said. "We were typically out there 3-4 hours and I can remember guys falling out in Boulder Creek. In my head I can still see guys totally laid out in the middle of Boulder Creek just trying to survive."
Banks said in his day players had to walk up a longer path on the hill closer to the student recreation center that MacIntyre and his players are having to use in fall camp this season because of the construction. It's twice as long and every bit as steep as the hill about which players from more recent decades reminisce.
"Those experiences are the things that bind you together as a group," Banks said. "I just kind of feel like there are many experiences playing Colorado football that bind people together and that's one of the cool things that I can relate to a guy like Lance Carl or Rashaan Salaam and the younger kids basically because we all put the same uniform on and we all did the same things."
A new bridge and path further to east will ultimately replace the one that has been torn up. CU athletic director Rick George's vision has that path and bridge as part of what he calls a "Buff Walk" that will run from Colorado Avenue on the south between the stadium and the indoor facility over a bridge and down to Folsom Street when the project is completed in the fall of 2015. But at that point, CU football practices will be held in a new permanent indoor facility or on what is now Franklin Field immediately east of the stadium and players won't have to walk up and down the hill to practice.
Associate athletic director Lance Carl, who played split end for the Buffs in the late-1980s, said he used to run to the creek after some of his practices and use the cold water to soothe his aches and pains and then run up the hill to the old team room.
These days Carl can catch rides on a golf cart to get up the hill from the practices he visits.
"It's a tradition," Carl said. "It's one of those things you love to hate, but as change comes, you adapt and you can still reflect on that hill."