Any questions, just ask.
That’s the Rutgers football philosophy when it comes to Chris Ash’s first spring coaching clinic.
Instead of a clinic run with an educated guess about what local coaches want, Rutgers turned directly to the source. Rutgers created a clinic for local high school coaches and, unconventionally, by local high school coaches.
There is plenty of Rutgers and Ash flavor planned for this weekend’s clinic on campus, but the New Jersey Football Coaches Association took a share of the reins to create the most dynamic possible experience.
“Without a doubt, that’s the model – this is a Big Ten clinic,” said Rutgers director of high school relations Rick Mantz. “It’s what Coach wanted us to do and certainly is different from anything Rutgers has done before. It will be very interactive. A lot of guys are available at any moment to grab off to the side.”
So what does Rutgers get out of the deal?
Nothing says building relationships like a packed campus full of power brokers, football and the unique Rutgers flavor.
“When you get a chance to promote the game of football and open the doors and let people come in to see your program, you hopefully have an opportunity to build relationships that help you in recruiting and help you build the program that you want,” Ash said.
Rutgers has its entire staff and keynote speakers available to the nearly 400 coaches expected on campus but Ash’s first clinic is bigger than that.
In addition to another on-campus NJFCA meeting, Rutgers has an impressive lineup up local high school and college speakers not affiliated with the program.
The NJFCA speaker selection, led by Gerry Gallagher and John Reising, lined up Princeton coach Bob Surace, Pennsylvania defensive coordinator Bob Benson, Bergen Catholic coach Nunzio Campanile, Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci, Westfield coach Jim Desarno, Haddonfield coach Frank Delano, Philadelphia St. Joseph coach Gabe Infante and Lebanon (Pa.) coach Gerry Yonchiuk.
“Instead of us just having our own clinic, why don’t we have a clinic together? The coaches association stepped up,” said Mantz, whose high school resume includes Hillsborough, South Brunswick and Passaic. “Nothing against Rutgers, obviously, because they’re going to get a lot from speaking and listening to the Rutgers coaches but a lot of it is driven toward high school and what we all have to face as high school coaches every day. That’s why you’re going to see six high school speakers and two college speakers.”
Mantz and Ash want coaches to experience a true, Big Ten coaches clinic this weekend and locked in football legend Barry Alvarez and former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand as headliners.
Any local football coach with a pulse knows LeGrand’s inspirational story, so he has a different speech planned for Friday night.
Set to steal the show among guest speakers, LeGrand has no sympathy for laziness at the high school level.
“I may not be as [fired up] as Ray Lewis, but I’m passionate about kids that feel privileged and won’t work for anything anymore,” LeGrand said. “Somewhere [these coaches] have heard my story. I want to give them something different. I want them to take something from me and use it.”
LeGrand may let his inner Rutgers passion shine through as well.
“I want to give a speech and use an example from my life and how I worked to build a foundation,” LeGrand said. “Build a foundation around the whole state, which leads back to Rutgers. I love how coach Ash is bringing in the competition. I want to get these kids to stay home.”
Instead of a clinic spread across campus with formal meetings, the Rutgers practice bubble will be a conclave of football wisdom.
“We’re going to set up two mini theaters within the bubble and a large dining pavilion in the middle of the field,” Mantz said. “This is how Ohio State and Penn State and a lot of larger schools traditionally have done it. The entire day is going to spent in the bubble. We have white boards all over the place for breakout sessions. … We’re on pace to have the largest Rutgers attended clinic that they’ve ever had here. Our members right now are well beyond wherever they’ve been.”