UCF's 2015 FanFest brought football fans out to meet the team and enjoy the festivities. Bernard Wilchusky
The ground level of Bright House Networks Stadium was filled with bumper cars, giveaways, food and a bounce house on Friday while hundreds of UCF alumni and fans lined up for autographs with football players and head coach George O'Leary during the annual UCF FanFest.
"The Knight Nation, they've come out full force," safeties coach Andrew Thacker said. "It helps legitimize what [the players are] doing to have that type of support."
UCF alumni, including Jim Fisher — who earned a bachelor's in elementary education in 2001 and a master's in educational leadership in 2004 — brought kids out to experience the free event firsthand.
"It's a good way to introduce them to [football]," Fisher said while holding a UCF football covered with players' autographs. "You walk down the line, see every single player, get an autograph; it's free and it's every single year, which is quite a feat.
"I think it's nice to pull it off for everyone who wants to go to a game, but can't go to a game."
Fans participated in free giveaways and a football-tossing contest, while trying to beat the Central Florida heat inside the stadium.
Coaches and players embraced the event as a way to interact with fans and take a break from training camp.
"It's just been a grind. It's just practice, meeting after practice, practice after meeting; so this gives them just a little bit of a taste of reward," Thacker said. "They work all year long, all the time they put in from spring to winter workouts to the preseason now. It's just another way to reward the kids.
"It's great interaction and, obviously, it's great support."
Much like sophomore Jordan Hay, fans were encouraged to come back to the event after their first time attending.
"I imagine some of the bigger schools, you don't get to see your players. But here, you get to see them interact with a lot of people," said Hay, a health sciences major. "That's something you don't necessarily get. It's pretty cool."
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.