Charlie Veitenthal took his high school friend's suggestion.
At just 14 years old, he headed down to Griffith Stadium with his cornet and tried out for the Washington Redskins Marching Band. He played "Hail to the Redskins," and soon enough he became the youngest member in the band.
The news was notable enough for The Washington Evening Star newspaper, which put a photo of him and the band's eldest member into one of its issues. The year was 1945.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Veitenthal, who will be 85 next month, remembered his close connection with the team and its players, especially Sammy Baugh, as a band member.
"I lived out on New Hampshire Avenue and a lot of the players lived out that way," he said on a recent visit and tour of the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park. "Sunday morning I used to get up and go to Sunday school and catch the bus down to Florida Avenue and I walked over to Griffith Stadium – the Redskins had a dressing room and the band had a dressing room, so I dropped off my horn and I'd go over to the player's dressing room. Consequently I met a lot of players as they were coming into work, and I became friends with the ball boy."
It's here where his eyes light up.
"I'd like to talk to [Tom] Brady about this," Veitenthal said. "Sunday mornings I used to take the balls out of a brand new box and give it to the ball boy. He would put a little hose on it like he's pumping up a bicycle. And when he finished, he'd check it like you do a car. And I'm thinking, Brady would have a fit if he knew this."
Veitenthal played in the band for six years before volunteering to be drafted in the army to serve in the Korean War. He was stationed in Germany for two years but didn't rejoin the band once he returned home. Still, he remains a Redskins fan and has plenty of memories of his time marching on the field.
"It was a thrill," he said, looking at a photo of his younger self. "You get out on the field. You couldn't really wear a coat over this [pointing to his uniform]. I don't know if it was the first year I was there, the Redskins played a championship game at Cleveland. It was cold as hell. What happened to me and a lot of fellas is your mouthpiece freezes and it sticks to your lips. Halftime I went and got back on the bus. My nose was frozen, my lips were frozen."
Every Thursday night the band would rehearse, and the owner at the time, George Preston Marshall, Veitnthal recalled, would stand on the second level of the stadium and direct the band's Sunday shows at the 50-yard line.
His daughter still takes him to games on occasion, and Veitenthal is pleased to see the band still going strong each game day. He just doesn't connect with the pop songs of today.
"We used to march up and down, and right behind us was the drum and bugle core and they always played Dixie," he said, motioning his hands up to his mouth, humming out the songs of old.