Sports

July 20, 2013

Learning lessons

Former pros adding life experiences for next-gen campers

The former NFL players at Eric Matthews’ E-Matt NFL Youth Camp at Northwest Whitfield High School said the kids at the camp were lucky.

Those retired players didn’t have this type of experience when they were the same age as the campers.

In the second day of the three-day camp, which concludes today at the high school, around 28 campers did everything from wide receiver drills to basic footwork training with the help of players who’ve been at the highest level in football. The camp is for ages 8-17 with a one-hour camp held for ages 5-7 Friday morning.

Clinton “C.J.” Jones, who played for Minnesota and San Diego, said this era for youth football players is much different than when he was still learning the ropes.

“I never had a camp until the ninth grade,” Jones said. “As for people coming down to help me? Nothing, bro. We had to do this by ourselves. My (training) cones were my shoes. I brought my tennis shoes and my cleats were in my bag and I used to bring all my friends and teammates to the field and set up drills with my tennis shoes. We didn’t have cones. My resistance training was me holding your shirt and you running. Now they have bungee cords. It’s good for them.”

Other former players agreed. Joining Matthews, who played for the Green Bay Packers, and Jones were: former University of Georgia running back Keith Henderson (Minnesota and San Francisco), Kendall Newsome (Jacksonville, Miami and Tennessee), Robert Hicks (Buffalo) and Todd Burks (Chicago). Leonard Bryant played at the University of Indiana.

“The first pro I met was when I was in college,” Hicks said. “I never got the chance to meet or talk or have any interaction with one before. It helps in a lot of ways. The kids can be around former NFL guys, ask them questions, build a relationship with us. It’s a beautiful thing. We all have kids now, so we understand what they’re asking. It’s a good feel and fit for us.”

And the kids see potential for rewards, too. Jasper Pierce, 14, is entering his freshman year at North Murray High School. He’s a wide receiver and cornerback but said it’s good to have versatility and learn numerous positions.

In the morning, the campers practiced footwork and mobility. In the afternoon, there were six stations — wide receiver, quarterback, linemen, running back, secondary and linebacker — and each camper rotated through each station for a 10-minute session.

“It gives me more of an opportunity to get better before the season,” Pierce said.

Dominique Sistrunk, 12, who is entering seventh grade at New Hope Middle, is a running back for the school’s team. He said a big plus is working on mechanics.

“Just getting the mental basics right,” Sistrunk said. “Like what we did here (at the linebacker station), reading the quarterback instead of anticipating or jumping.”

And for the younger kids, it was more about learning what positions they enjoy. Gavyn Stanley, 8, is a Westwood Elementary student. He said his favorite stations were defensive back, offensive line and wide receiver.

“I’m learning how to catch and if you’re fixing to fall, put your hand out to push yourself back up,” Stanley said.

Matthews said the camp will give kids “one foot forward” in their progression as football players, but today’s era also hinders kids from developing the same way he and some of the other former players did.

“You see, we played all the time,” Matthews said. “We stayed outside. So our mobile skills came from staying outside. These kids don’t stay outside, so they’ve lost a step. Their mobile skills come from the experience we’re giving them. I still think it’s evening out. We had those things just going out and playing kick ball, riding your bike, climbing trees. You learn mobile skills just going out and playing. Kids don’t do that anymore. They’re more into video games, and also in this society, you can’t let your kids go.

“It used to be on Saturdays you just went outside and played all day,” Matthews said. “Now, you can’t let your kids do that because you don’t know what is down the street. There’s so much going on so you get scared to let them go.”

Dawn and Ricky Johnson’s Tunnel Hill training facility, Athletic Edge, has partnered with Matthews and the players this week to bring a series of events, including a trip to Whitfield County’s Miracle League on Wednesday, a charity basketball game Thursday and a charity bowling night Friday.

Ricky Johnson said the most enjoyable part is watching the kids and players interact during “down time” like lunch and water breaks. Again, the retired players said that kind of experience was lacking during their childhood, so they’re happy to provide that to the next generation of possible NFL players.

“These NFL players will tell their experiences of who they went up against and who was the toughest quarterback they played against,” Ricky Johnson said. “The kids get to hear these stories. It’s amazing. Their eyes are open and mouths drop.

“That’s the most fun I think,” Johnson said.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • CHS Lowe_Bartley 3 mlh.jpg Let’s keep playing

    Academic offerings played a big part in which college football program nabbed Christian Heritage School’s Nich Bartley, one of the area’s top players in 2013.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Prep roundup: Coahulla Creek hurts N. Murray’s playoff hopes

    One play in the fifth inning, during which the sun got in pitcher Braiden Jacobs’ eyes, seemed to encapsulate the entire season for Coahulla Creek High School’s baseball team.
    But it could be one rule misinterpretation that defines the season for North Murray.

    April 17, 2014

  • NW region tennis 3 mlh.jpg Region tennis roundup: Six area teams clinch spots in state

    Dalton High School’s tennis teams finished their business quickly on the first day of the Region 7-4A tournament.
    Coach David Hilley had no problem with that.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Region track day 2 2 mlh.jpg All the way to the top

    En route to the Region 7-4A track and field championship Wednesday as the host school, Dalton High’s boys team found out what a difference a year makes.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Area middle school roundup: CHS girls soccer team earns shutout win

    Olivia Idom had the lone goal as Christian Heritage’s middle school girls soccer team beat Gladden 1-0 on Monday.

    April 17, 2014

  • After Deadline episode 21 (free)

    This week on “After Deadline,” The Daily Citizen sports writers Devin Golden and Chris Whitfield discuss the Northwest Whitfield High School baseball team’s prospects in the state playoffs now that the Bruins have clinched the Sub-region 7B-4A title and will compete next week for a region championship.

    April 16, 2014

  • Region track '14 8 mlh.jpg Battling the elements

    A bitterly cold wind was disruptive enough to shake up the schedule Tuesday at the opening day of the Region 7-4A track and field meet at Dalton High School.
    But those tough conditions didn’t stop some local athletes from excelling.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Raiders clinch spot in soccer state tournament

    With the formalities of earning a GHSA Class 4A boys state soccer berth out of the way, Southeast Whitfield immediately turned its attention to a little sibling rivalry.

    April 15, 2014

  • Prep roundup: Bruins set up region semis vs. Southeast

    With a roller coaster regular season behind it, Northwest Whitfield High School’s boys soccer team is back in its comfort zone.

    April 15, 2014

  • ‘After Deadline’ turns focus on Morris soccer

    This week on “After Deadline,” The Daily Citizen sports writers Devin Golden and Chris Whitfield discuss the Northwest Whitfield High School baseball team’s prospects in the state playoffs now that the Bruins have clinched the Sub-region 7B-4A title and will compete next week for a region championship.

    April 15, 2014

AP Video