Hurricane Fantasyland

So what would it be like to catch an out-pattern from Bernie Kosar? Or line up against Russell Maryland? And then try and cover a Santana Moss? Along with learning the intricacies of a pro-style offense from Gary Stevens? You can find out when the National Fantasy Football Camp comes to the University of Miami from June 23rd to June 26th.

For a tax-deductible fee of $3,500, Hurricane fans can receive hands-on instruction with former University of Miami gridiron greats of the past.

"We're going to have them for three days, four nights, where they come in, stay in the dorms, two to a room," said Mel Bratton, a former standout at the University of Miami in the 80's, who is now the COO of National Fantasy Football Camp. Bratton, says that fans will now get a taste of what the players go through. "Instead of being a fan in the stands-you're now living it. Now instead of criticizing and saying, 'This guy should call this play' or 'Coker should have done this' now, you're the guy.

"You're actually getting up in the morning, we're going to have it where we wake your behind up at five in the morning, with the horns, yelling and beating on the garbage can tops with a big stick, just banging 'em. We're going to have curfew, we're going to fine you- in a fun way- that in itself will be a fund raiser, where if you come to meetings late, we have a jar where you have to put your money in.

"So we're going to give that actual die-hard fan, the chance to actually go through two-a-days, the soreness, the stuff we have to go through to get ready for a season."

But Bratton, who was a key member of the 1987 team that captured UM's second national championship, mentions that this camp will really be a opportunity to mingle with those they once cheered for at the Orange Bowl.

"It's a chance for die-hard fans to rub elbows with names like Jim Kelly, Warren Sapp, the Ray Lewis' of the world, Ottis Anderson is coming, Chuck Foreman, George Mira, Sr.," he points out. "We're going to the old-school to the new-school."

"You get taught and coached by your favorite Hurricanes in the rich Miami history. To spend three solid days to really fraternize, really getting to know them."

Bratton says most of the instruction will not focus on the physical aspect of football.

"It'll be more mental," he says. "We're not going to be on the field that much. We'll have receptions in the evening where we have barbeques, dinners and it's really a chance to know a persons life and to interact with that businessman or businesswomen that's out there who's a die-hard fan.

"You'll be able to dress in the locker rooms, where the Kosar's, the Highsmith's, the Testaverde's and the Torretta's, actually got started. You're going to actually get dressed in those lockers, you'll actually walk the hallways, sit in the meeting rooms, in the same chairs that those guys sat in, watching films. So we're giving you what no other person can ever experience or think about."

Bratton says that the former 'Canes will be lodged in the same dorms as the campers and the practices will be held on the Greentree Practice Fields.

"We're going to end it with a bang," Bratton says. "We'll have a scrimmage, it's going to be very competitive. We break them up in groups and it'll be fun. The players will play, also."

Those who are committed to participate according to Bratton are: Kosar, Anderson, Highsmith, Foreman, Moss, Maryland, Brian and Bennie Blades, Kenny Holmes, Ken Calhoun, Bobby Harden, Eddie Brown, James Jackson, Cortez Kennedy, Bubba McDowell, Reggie Wayne, Bubba Franks, Edgerrin James, along with former coaches like Stevens, Joe Brodsky, Randy Shannon and Hubbard Alexander. Bratton is working daily to secure more commitments to the camp.

For the price of $3,500, campers will receive a practice jersey, housing accommodations, three meals a day, playbooks, a certificate, video footage and autographs, among other things. Travel expenses are not covered and campers are advised to bring their own cleats and socks.

Women are also encouraged to participate in the camp. But Bratton says that only the first 100 applicants will be accepted, first come first serve. The sing-up deadline is May 1st and you must be at least 21 years old to participate.

The concept of a football fantasy camp was an idea hatched by Bratton, alongside the president and founder of NFFC, Walter Lang, a former UCLA Bruin, who played in Westwood during the early 80's for Terry Donahue.

"The idea just popped in my head," explained Lang. "I always had sports in my blood, so it just seemed natural that one of the most natural sports in the United States to put together with the fans, is football. Fans go to games, but they're so far away from the action, they know get a chance to be upfront and close with their heroes and also experience the game at it's truest level."

There are plans to bring fantasy camps to schools all across the country. In addition to giving fans and alumni a chance to meet former players, it will also benefit the universities.

"With me being a Hurricane, the first school we targeted was Miami," said Bratton. "We sat down and met with the athletic director Paul Dee and we presented our whole concept and our organizational skills and showed exactly how well run this camp will be. And what we did also was, we strategized where we're giving back a donation to the University of Miami. It can be a nice sized profit for UM to use for facilities and other things."

"We're going to talk to several universities," Lang points out. "We've already talked to one other school in person already. But we want to try to do as many as we can do. We think it's a great idea. We think it's something that's long overdue, we think it's going to be very enjoyable and a great experience. We think it's a win-win situation for us and the schools."

And just as importantly for the fans.

"It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who love the game of football and want to have an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of their football heroes," said Tammy Atmore, of Atmore Sports and Entertainment, that is the event's consultant.

* For more information on the fantasy camp, log onto www.nffc.us or you can call (toll free nationally) 866-623-4707 or locally in the Miami area at 305-623-4707.

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