Pros Lend Expertise To Camp

Football University

Local Standouts Receive Nfl-level Instruction

July 12, 2009|By Aaron Wright | Aaron Wright,aaron.wright@baltsun.com

Pro Bowl selections, Super Bowl champions and a host of other former NFL players and coaches shared their collective wisdom Saturday during Football University at the Severn School.

The invitation-only football camp gave some of the region's top high school and middle school players a chance to learn techniques from seasoned veterans and gain tips for life outside of football.

More than 200 players participated in Saturday's camp. Organizers aim to keep Football University functioning at an 8-1 coach-player ratio.

For the players, that kind of hands-on instruction from former NFL standouts like five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Rison made FBU a worthwhile experience.

"It's really helpful when you have a pro guy like Andre Rison," said Marcus Snipes, a wide receiver from St. Frances. "You've got a great respect level for this dude, and everything he tells you is helpful. When you use it on the field against [defensive backs] and it works, you're like 'Dang, that was a great tip.' "

Rison, like many of the other former NFL players and coaches in attendance, preached the fundamentals of technique.

"I always tell them, 'Don't trust us, trust the technique,' " Rison said. "Once they have success using it, they listen and are ready to learn."

Saturday's camp was not just about passing, blocking and tackling. Participants were given nutrition tips courtesy of representatives from the Athletic Republic in Bowie. The athletes were also taught about the ins and outs of recruiting and given advice from pros on post-football life.

"The most important thing is, what are you going to do after football?" asked Glenn Foley, a former New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks quarterback. "The chances of any of these kids going pro is almost zero. You can't play football forever, and you have to be prepared for that. So it's important to stress that they strive for As and Bs while they're playing."

Glenn Smith, a former Dallas Cowboys assistant, wanted the running backs he tutored to master the mental aspects of being a football player and how to conduct themselves properly off the field.

"I want them to be reactionary rather than thinking on the field," he said. " ... They need to be on time and prepared for meetings, and [they need to] respect people."

Former Penn State standout Blair Thomas, the second overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft by the Jets, joined Smith in coaching the running backs. Thomas' experience and knowledge was a draw for Jacob Siwicki, a rising senior tailback who made the roughly 4 1/2 -hour drive to Severna Park from Upper St. Clair, Pa.

"It's awesome. They're legends," Siwicki said. "I struggled last season with my blocking, and these tips will definitely help me improve next season."

Throughout their workout, Thomas stressed the importance of conditioning.

"If any running back wants to be elite, he has to be in better shape than anybody on the field," he said. "If they're tired, a 40-yard run turns into a 5-yard gain."

More than eight years ago, Steve Shafer coached the defensive backs for the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Shafer retired from the NFL in 2003 but has kept busy with Football University instruction. He handled the defensive backs Saturday and was impressed with what he saw.

"There are definitely some Division I guys out here, but there is also a wide range of ages and abilities," he said. "The great thing is that they all gain something."

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