SPRINGDALE – Former Arkansas quarterback Alex Mortensen and a few of his former Razorback teammates got together on Saturday to impart wisdom to over 100 youth football players.
Mortensen was hosting the first annual Northwest Arkansas Passing Academy at Shiloh Christian's Field of Champions, which is tailored for quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and tight ends.
"I am really happy with our turnout and I think – especially for the first time doing it – it went really well," Mortensen said. "As the guy who has put it together, the big thing was just knowing you have a great staff and how you don't have to micromanage everything and everyone because of that. All these guys know a lot of football and they are really good teachers."
The staff included former Arkansas players in quarterbacks Joe Ferguson, Zak Clark and Dowell Loggains, wide receiver Marcus Monk and tight end Wes Murphy as well as former Shiloh Christian and current Missouri State player Eric Shaffer.
They were trying to stress fundamentals to campers that ranged from ages 7 to 18 while ESPN NFL analyst Chris Mortensen – Alex' dad – chatted with parents.
"Fundamentals are so important at a young age because you are building habits and those habits stay with you for a long time," Mortensen said. "Sometimes guys are building habits and don't even know it – and they are the wrong habits. It's good to get out here and learn the basics, things that will stay with them as they get older."
After being tabbed as the No. 1 quarterback in Georgia his senior season at Landmark Christian School in Atlanta, Mortensen completed 40 of 84 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns in his college career.
Mortensen began at Arkansas, transferred to Samford and then came back to finish his career as a Razorback before signing as an undrafted free agent contract with the Tennessee Titans in 2009 and playing in an exhibition game.
He and his father started Play Next Level, an interactive recruiting website that is a platform for high school and junior college football players to showcase their skills to college coaches.
"It's right at two years now and things have gone good," Mortensen said. "I know we have helped a lot of kids get their videos out on the recruiting side of it. Now getting involved in the skill development and camps has opened up a whole new side for us. It has been a fun two years and I have learned a lot.
"Working with the players and the families has really been enjoyable," Mortensen said, "and certainly very rewarding."
Mortensen felt like the Razorbacks will have a great season in 2012 despite the ouster of former head coach Bobby Petrino.
"I think they can still be really good," Mortensen said. "There are still a lot of great coaches on that staff. I think the big thing is that there are still a lot of great coaches on that staff and there are players on that team that have stepped up, guys that were already leaders and have stepped even more to the forefront and are really taking a hold of the team."
Mortensen knew current Razorback quarterback Tyler Wilson was going to be a good one very early on.
"Tyler has developed, but Tyler was really good when he stepped on campus as a freshman," Mortensen said. "He has always been a smart guy. I knew that when he didn't know the playbook that well, but was still completing passes in practice and was still very productive in scrimmages and 7-on-7s with a very minimal understanding of the playbook.
"Right away you could see his instincts were off the chart and he could just kind of find guys intuitively that were open," Mortensen added. "It has been real fun to watch him, he is a good guy and I am definitely looking forward to see him have a great last year."
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