They saw him on TV playing against the Raiders--sacking Jim Plunkett, handcuffing Marcus Allen or colliding with Todd Christenson.
Then the Glendale High School football team got to meet Duane Bickett, all-pro linebacker of the Indianapolis Colts and 1981 Glendale graduate.
They called him "coach" as Bickett spent all spring practice sweating with the Nitros, lifting weights, shouting encouragement and teaching football techniques.
"He (Bickett) joked that he'll be back next year only if we are Pacific League champs," said sophomore tackle John Garrett.
"I'll be back next year," Bickett said.
He is an athlete who hasn't forgotten his roots.
"I don't think it's too much to return to two coaches who helped me a lot," Bickett said, referring to Glendale's co-head Coaches Don Shumaker and Tim Butler.
"He really feels it's important to come back," said Shumaker. "At first, the kids were shocked at what a regular guy he is.
"I mean, here's a guy who was the fifth guy drafted in the first round in 1985 and they can just come up and talk to him."
Said linebacker Dran Colvin: "He's just like one of your friends."
Bickett does more than visit. Last year he created an annual $500 scholarship for male and female athletes at Glendale who also excelled in the classroom. Bickett was a three-time member of the Pac-10 Academic team at USC.
He also spent Easter weekend with 10- and 11-year-olds as a YMCA camp counselor.
The low-key 245-pounder strongly credits Glendale's YMCA Little League and Bears football programs for helping hone his athletic skills. The Glendale School District, he says, deserves much of the credit for his personal growth and professional success.
Bickett believes in giving something back to the community. He stresses communication, education, teamwork and brotherhood to Glendale football players.
"Being a sport hero lasts only a few years, a well-rounded education lasts forever," he says.
Bickett, who lives in Glendale in the off-season, says that once local people meet him they say, "This is the same Duane Bickett who went to Glendale High School."
But in Indianapolis, Bickett says, it's a different story. "Being a celebrity, fans come up to you at restaurants and want your autograph. As long as they want it, I'll give it to them."
Bickett also gives $100 for each tackle he makes to the Noble Center of Retarded Citizens in Indianapolis. Last year, he made 156 tackles.
Bickett says he realizes that as a professional athlete, he sets styles, attitudes and trends, and it is not a responsibility he takes lightly.