Bucknuts sent 12 local boys away to the
Ohio State Football camp and they came back as, well…as boys with some great
Actually, Bucknuts didn't "send"
any of the boys. But we did follow twelve high school footballers from Oakwood
High School here in Dayton to see what they got out of the vaunted camp
experience. Will any of them be included in the "senior advance camp" next
year as super prospects? Probably not, although a couple of them believe they should
be included. This is a group of kids that have played together since the third
grade. The bulk of the group is going to be juniors next year. Last year, under
the steadying leadership of Coach Paul Stone, they somehow got their Lumberjack
team into the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. With half the team being
sophomores, they defied all odds by winning their first playoff game and then
falling to Hamilton Badin in the second game. In five overtimes. These are kids
who don't give up on their dreams very easily.
Now, they are bulked up and have an
extra helping of confidence. And they invaded the first camp en masse, ready to
over-run Columbus. This is the short tale of two of those campers and their
experiences. Hey – now you know what all those kids spent their hard-earned
$270 on, right? It brings a new meaning to the phrase, "Go Bucks"…
Nick had been to the camp the year
before. He came back this year 25 pounds heavier and 3 inches taller. His bench
press had gone up considerably to about 300 pounds. As a sophomore, he won a lot
of all-area type honors and got a little ink in the local newspapers. He is the
team's middle linebacker, back-up fullback and punt returner. A unique
Nick has gotten "recruiting letters"
from Notre Dame, Boston College, Northwestern, Kentucky and Clemson to name a
few. The reason they are "recruiting letters" and not just recruiting
letters is that colleges are not allowed to officially recruit a kid until
the kid is officially a junior. So each of the letters started off with a
variant of "Thanks for your interest in ______." His interest? A couple of
times, Nick didn't even know what state the school was in…
He had achieved a lot that year on the
football field. But something that happened the previous year at OSU camp had
left a bad taste in Nick's mouth. He ran a 4.85 forty, after convincing
himself he was a 4.5 "kind of guy". So,
he took the spring off from baseball, went to a sports acceleration program and
was gunning to run an "elite 40" here at this year's camp.
And the testing takes place the first
day that the kids sign in…
Jeff had a little different story. He
was a team leader along with Nick And despite the return of a senior Oakwood
quarterback, Jeff was slated to take half the snaps early in the year and see
which cream rose to the top. The betting line had it that Jeff would be The Man
by the middle of the year.
First game. Early first quarter. Jeff
comes out with a nagging injury that turns out to be a broken leg. This was a
tough kid who had never been hurt before. After six games, he was playing again
and got a different injury. Jeff basically missed his whole sophomore year and
missed out on the Oakwood playoff glory. His response? Work harder. He had to
show everyone what he could do…
A year ago at the camp, Nick got a bad
sunburn. He didn't realize that the players would be outside virtually the
entire time that there was daylight. Being fifteen years old, he figured he
could withstand the pain but he certainly learned his lesson.
The next year, he vowed, he would go
nowhere without his sun block. When he got to camp, though, he couldn't find
He got another bad sunburn. Live and
* * *
Jeff was eager to get started. "After
we checked in, we got right to it. The quarterbacks were split up into about
twelve groups and got to work. We started off with some warm-up throwing drills
and then threw some routes with the receivers".
The QBs would get some time out
of the sun to talk that cerebral QB stuff and watch films. This was a good time
for Jeff to show his stuff after being off, virtually, for an entire year.
* * *
This was it. Nick was ready to be tested
again in the 40.
"Man, I was nervous. I waited a whole
year for this, got tons of advice, went to the acceleration program and here I
was with everyone watching".
"I remember the last advice I got:
just relax before you go. Great advice when you can barely stand up! We got two
chances for official times. On my first run, I was so tight I almost fell down.
They told me it was a 4.92. God, that was worse than last year!"
"So now I'm pissed. The pressure was
gone. On the second run, I was clocked at 4.61. I knew I could do it…"
Nick started meeting coaches he had
never seen before. Most of them asked his name and where he went to school.
Coach Mark Snyder from the Buckeyes stopped by to say hello.
Life was good.
* * *
Jeff went through the testing but was
more geared for the seven-on-seven drills. "It was good competition and a
realization as to where you stood against your fellow quarterbacks." Jeff was
the only QB at the camp who didn't throw an interception.
"One of the DBs was unbelievably
quick. I just stayed away from him".
Turned out it was Donte Whitner from
Cleveland Glenville, the number one rated cornerback in the nation.
* * *
Nick was on cruise control now. Bad
sunburn and all. "Coach Tressel talked to us for about 15 minutes. That was
cool. And I remember we had Quiznos subs for lunch". He remembers he ate at
Applebee's a couple times and bought a case of water (!) to drink in his down
At age 16, you might not remember the
name of your position coach but you remember your basic feedings.
"We woke up each morning at 6:55 and
breakfast was at 7:30. Coach Conley talked to us the second day and we got a lot
of position pointers. On the third day, we watched OSU highlights on the
jumbotron inside the horseshoe. That might have been the coolest part of the
Better then a 4.61 forty. "Oh yeah, I
forgot about that!"
* * *
Jeff remembered fondly the sacred grass
of the stadium, as well. "They let us walk across the field, which was an
amazing experience for everyone. The camp overall was a good experience for me
and helped get us back into a football mode".
After all, it's already the middle of
* * *
This was the second camping experience
for both these guys. Actually, Jeff has also been to some throwing camps for
QB's and receivers. Nick spends an equal amount of time at basketball camps.
Why highlight these two kids? Well, Jeff
was the quarterback (way back in the eighth grade) that I said could have played
better than the (then) sophomore Steve Bellisari. You can look it up. The column
was "Jeff For Quarterback". It is astounding how much preparation these kids
get for their positions. That was my argument back then, too. It is awful hard
to teach a great athlete the touch and intuitive aspects of this position. As we
found out with Stevie…
Jeff has been playing QB now for seven years. He's rarely seen a season without huge successes. A number of those teams went undefeated. Then again, he had never been injured before. We'll see how all that preparation pays off in the 2002 season.
Nick? He has been in Ohio's Future
Stars since he was a freshman. And he gets tested by a lot of the older bigger
players on opposing teams because of it. And he loves getting tested.
Now, with the "elite 40" time, he is
working on bulking up to 200 pounds for the season and creating a new highlight
film for 2002. Would he go back to the OSU camp next year? "I'd like to be
part of the senior advance camp. Hey – and I'd like to run a 4.5 forty. I
can do it!"
The camp on this Wednesday involves 50
or so of the more recruit-able football players around. But there were 2800
other kids who paid to go to camp. That's what's so great about high school
football. Most of the kids toil in obscurity for the love of the game and to
hang with the guys.