State of the Hogs: Passing Fancy

It's advertised as a fun day around football, but there will be some serious training in the passing game. Alex Mortensen has some heavy hitters lined up for the staff at the first Northwest Arkansas Passing Academy.

There are a lot of times I'd like to have a do over, go back and try something again.

It could be that I'd go back to my elementary days, sometimes junior high and often high school. What if I had tried this, or that?

What could I have become with a little more training, a little more expertise from top level folks? What would I have become if I knew then what I know now?

I know what I'd do on June 2 if I was between 7 and 18 with any interest in football -- be at the Northwest Arkansas Passing Academy.

Oh, I'm not sure it would have made me a great football player. But this sounds way too cool to miss if there is any interest in sports period.

Alex Mortensen, former quarterback at Arkansas, has put together a day at Shiloh Christian's football facilities that includes instruction from Joe Ferguson, Clint Stoerner, Zak Clark, Dowell Loggains and Michael Smith. All played at Arkansas. All were quarterbacks except Smith, a top-notch SEC running back. This staff has a bunch of NFL experience as players or coaches.

This will be for offensive skill position players -- quarterbacks, tight ends, running backs, fullbacks and tight ends. It starts at 8 a.m. and includes three practices and chalk talk sessions to learn defensive weaknesses and passing game concepts.

There's also time for parents to learn from an expert parent, Alex' father Chris. ESPN's senior analyst for the NFL will meet and great parents and hang out. He'll do a question an answer session with parents on how to raise a football player. He's done pretty good at raising a son, too.

It's clear a lot of others think the same thing. This is a top cast of coaches that have jumped on board with Alex for a first-time event. I love them all as people and respect them off the field, as I do Alex. He's an outstanding budding young coach, but a better person.

"I'm proud of Alex and know how hard he's worked on this," Chris said. "I also know how important it is to get the right instruction.

"I want to provide educational information to parents of all ages on the process of getting into football and then the development. I know I learned a lot through flag football -- we didn't let Alex play in full-pad leagues until the seventh grade -- and through high school. There are some things I know now that I wish that I'd known then.

"We have been to the Manning Passing Academy many times and some of the things that Alex is going to do are similar. I highly encourage parents to come and enjoy this day with their sons and I think that it will be good for the youngest groups, too."

Alex has been to the Manning Passing Academy as both a player and staff coach.

It's unfair to cover the bios of the camp staff in one paragraph, but here goes. Ferguson played 18 years in the NFL, Stoerner with the Dallas Cowboys, Clark at the UA and UCA and Loggains is the current quarterbacks coach for the Tennessee Titans. There is great personality in this group, starting with Smith.

To register or find more detail, go to PlayNextLevel.com. Cost is $79.95.

"I've been to several passing academies and I've always wanted to do something like this in Northwest Arkansas," Alex said. "I was thrilled when this kind of group came together for our first one.

"This is a great staff and it's a unique opportunity for a youngster to be coached by this kind of group with this kind of college and NFL experience.

"We want to do it annually, but there is no guarantee we can get this group together again. It's so tough to match all of their schedules and I've been working on that for some time. The qualifications of this group is incredible."

There will be plenty of raw football knowledge taught, but it's advertised as a fun, upbeat atmosphere. Knowing those involved, I'd bet on that. Don't wish you had a do-over for this one.

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