AVON — Although the calendar says summer is still a week away, area football players are already preparing for fall.
Players from Avon, Clearview and Columbia joined their peers from Westlake, Independence and Padua on Tuesday on the first day of the three-day 2012 NFL High School Player Development camp at Avon Middle School.
The camp, one of seven in northern Ohio sponsored by the National Guard and the Cleveland Browns, includes lessons on topics affecting high school athletes, including time management skills and how to get noticed by college coaches.
“The National Guard and the NFL use football as a vehicle to teach these young men about life choices,” camp director Chris Medaglia said.
Medaglia, the athletic director at Valley Forge High School has been running these camps since 2006 and was thrilled to be holding one in Avon.
“In the past we’ve held this at Byers Field in Parma but they’re putting in new turf this year and (Avon coach) Mike Elder stepped up and offered to host the camp here,” Medaglia said. “I’m really impressed by this facility and Avon is a perfect geographical location for us. I would like to come back here again in the future.”
This is the second year the Eagles have attended the camp and senior wide receiver-safety Sam Bitter said the 2011 camp laid the foundation for the Eagles making it to the Division II state final.
“The work you put in now really sharpens your skills and helps you get an edge that you hope to carry over into the season,” Bitter said.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association limits football coaches to 10 days of contact with their teams during the period from June 1 to July 31 so these camps are an important part of a team’s preseason preparation.
“It’s good to get some work in this early in June but, more importantly, this is a good experience for the kids,” Elder said. “This is an extremely well-organized and well-run camp. The NFL does a great job with this.”
While Tuesday’s session focused primarily on individual skills, there will be more 7-on-7 scrimmage drills as the camp progresses. At the end of the week, Medaglia and his staff will choose 20 players from the six schools to compete against the best players from other camp sites in a 7-on-7 competition at Cleveland Browns Stadium on June 24.
From there, 12 players from across northern Ohio will be selected to represent the Browns in the national 7-on-7 tournament in Indianapolis in July. All 32 NFL teams will send a team of high school players to Indianapolis for what Medaglia describes as “the Super Bowl of High School Player Development.”
After months in the weight room, the players just appreciate the opportunity to face someone from a different school, even in a non-contact situation.
Columbia senior tackle-linebacker Foster Tucker said it’s a chance to see where the Raiders stand in relation to other teams.
“It’s not all about the 7-on-7, even the linemen were on the back field facing off against each other in strength drills,” Tucker said. “This is a great atmosphere and it’s great to be on the field with a team like Avon, who played for a state championship last year. It’s motivates you to work even harder.”
Eagles senior quarterback David Zeh, a veteran of the 2011 camp, said he and his teammate benefit from the chance to work against other teams and that the camp compares favorably against others he’s attended.
One of the best features of the camp is the price: Free. The National Guard and the Browns foot the bill for the event.
“Anything that we can do to reduce the financial burden on student-athletes and their families as a coach, I’m in favor of, so I was excited for the chance to be involved in this,” Columbia coach Jason Ward said. “Also, when I knew that Mike (Elder) was going to be involved, that made it even more attractive. Anytime you can share a field with a state championship-caliber team and coach you should take advantage of that.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.