Ozzie Hill of Middletown lay on the trainer's table about halfway through the morning workout. They had just placed ice on his left hamstring, which he had lightly aggravated just a short time before.
"My Dad told me Thursday night I would be coming, and I didn't know what it would be about. But it's pretty fun. It's a lot of running, but I'm excited to be here," said Hill. "Working with the pros shows me what it will take to get there [the NFL]. I'd like to get there some day."
"It" was the Marvin & Palmer Associates, Inc. One Day Football Camp at Bulkeley High School in Hartford, Conn., presented by the Carmine & Frank Mangini Foundation and the Tebucky Jones Youth Foundation.
More than 10 NFL players, including nine from the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, joined 21 pro coaches and 15 college coaches at the first of what organizer Eric Mangini hopes will become an annual event. More than 300 high school kids attended, two-thirds of whom were on scholarship. Everyone wanted to make the most of the day.
Mangini, an assistant coach for the Patriots, graduated from Bulkeley; Jones, a defensive back with the Patriots, graduated from New Britain High, just a short distance away. Together, through the One Day Football Camp, they raised more than $55,000 for their two foundations, which seek to increase opportunities for under-resourced children by creating and assisting academic and athletic programs, and much more.
"After the Patriots won the Super Bowl, Eric said 'We have to do something big this year,'" said Julie Mangini, Eric's wife and a co-organizer of the event. "He talked to Tebucky and it was a good marriage because they are both from here and they both have foundations. They started calling some of the coaches they know in the area, and then the sponsors started signing on, and we raised [a lot of money] today for the two organizations."
In addition to Marvin & Palmer Global Equity Fund Management, Sovereign Bank New England, Alexander's Uniforms, Mercury Moving & Storage Systems, Frito Lay, Spaulding, HealthSouth, and a score of local businesses chipped in to bring the camp to Bulkeley, and kids from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.
Joe Malvezzi of Wilverham, Mass., while working with Brian Cox, a member of the New Orleans Saints now who flew in just to take part in the camp, said, "It's a great experience, definitely."
That's why Hill was up off the trainer's table just 20 minutes later, and back in the drills with Otis Smith, running hard every time through the line so he wouldn't hear Smith yell, "Run!" Hill wasn't going to miss out on what several athletes and coaches in attendance referred to as the "opportunity of a lifetime."
"The camp is good. They're really working you," said Dion Hightower of Windsor, Conn. "It's a fun experience, and a little easier to take the criticism from the pros because they know what it takes to get there."
The non-contact camp stressed the fundamentals, form and technique. The goal was to stimulate a general interest in the game of football with an emphasis on good work habits, self-discipline, motivation, and self-confidence.
And as Bryan Cox watched some of his linebacker campers go through the paces on what was a wet, misty Saturday, he stressed the importance of staying on your feet. "You gotta keep your feet underneath you. Plant 'em and then go. It's not how fast you do it, it's how correct you do it."
And that pretty much sums up the One Day Football Camp.
Sights and Sounds
Jack Cochrane, head coach of state champion New Britain, on the different coaching styles at the camp: "Kids are always going to learn something different than the way you teach them. Everyone has their own style, especially with the quarterbacks. It's good for them to know there are different ways to skin a cat."
Tebucky Jones turned and tossed the pigskin toward a group that included his brother, James, and a former coach at New Britain, Ted Morris. The ball skipped through the group off the wet turf. "That's why they got Brady. That's why they got Brady," taunted Morris.
"I can hit you if I wanted to hit," chided Jones. "But I ain't gonna hitcha."
Otis Smith, while putting his charges through the paces, tried to impress upon them the importance of reaching for the ball, no matter where it's thrown. "Remember, you're NOT the receiver. The ball's not going to be perfect coming to you. Go get it!"
Bob Gibson, who led Bloomfield to the Connecticut class S state championship in his first year at the helm: "This gives my kids the chance to get excited about the game of football and about working hard this summer to get a taste of a successful season."
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.