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UMass checks out Gillette digs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The latest Patriots practice open to the masses was two days ago, but a few members of the team got an unexpected brush with the adoring public Wednesday afternoon.

Having just completed a light workout on the field at Gillette Stadium, the UMass Minutemen were headed for their coach buses for the ride back to Amherst when some of the New England players passed them in the halls on the way to the practice field.

So instead of continuing to the buses, the college kids stopped and gawked. More than a few called out “Revis” when the Pats’ new star cornerback sauntered by in his blue No. 24 jersey.

(Darrelle Revis didn’t seem to notice.)

A few Minutemen snapped pictures with their smartphones, which prompted an alert employee standing nearby to sternly remind them they were in a private area of the stadium and the pictures should not find their way to social media.

No matter. The chance encounter is just another perk of calling Gillette home for three dates this season, along with seeing the university’s logo (the oversized “U” overlaid with “MASS”) spinning on the end zone video boards and the ribbon boards proclaiming “Welcome to the home of the Massachusetts Minutemen.”

With the season opener just 10 days away, UMass coach Mark Whipple brought his team across the state to give the players and coaches a chance to get comfortable in their home-away-from-home.

“We just wanted to show them what the ride was like, so it’s nothing new,” Whipple said. “A lot of guys hadn’t been here, guys hadn’t thrown here. And I think sometimes the sight lines are somewhat different. It’s just familiarity. It’s our home field, [it’s] a great place. A lot of the young freshmen hadn’t seen it, and [I] really we wanted them to be ready to play football and not look around.”

It was an easy workout -- just helmets, jerseys and shorts -- to be followed later Wednesday with a session back at McGuirk in Amherst. The Minutemen did a few passing drills, worked on special teams and were off the field in less than two hours.

Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, named the team’s starter on Monday after a camp competition with incumbent A.J. Doyle, said it was a helpful outing.

“It’s pretty awesome,” the graduate student, a transfer from Marshall, said. “You take that little road in, [and] just seeing how big it is, it’s a pretty cool place to be at right now.”

Although there’s still plenty of work to be done -- the game plan for Boston College won’t really start being installed until Friday -- Frohnapfel said he and his teammates can’t wait to run out of that tunnel on Aug. 30.

“To have a chance to play in a big game like that, in a stadium like this, with all the history and the guys that play on this field,” he said, “it’s pretty special.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.