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Young Athletes Take Cues From Gridiron Legends

July 11, 2008By Adam Vingan

WHAT DO YOU GET when you mix some college football players, a legendary coach and a Super Bowl champion?   One heckuva hands-on learning experience.
 
That’s what happened last month when young football athletes gathered at Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia Beach to play some ball at the first Velocity-Nike Football Camp. Velocity is a performance training center that specializes in training athletes in all sports. There are 65 centers nationwide, including one in Chesapeake and one in Hampton.  Velocity’s camp attracted some heavy hitters to get the message across to the young players.
    
One of those people turned out to be the consensus highlight of the week: Plaxico Burress, wide receiver for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.  Burress graduated from Green Run High School in Virginia Beach in 1996. He attended Michigan State University before being drafted eighth overall in the 2000 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Burress came to the camp at the beginning and end of the week, providing insight into the core values preached by his coach at Green Run, Elisha “Cadillac” Harris: response, goal setting, teamwork, sportsmanship and perseverance.
 
“Accountability is one of the most important aspects of football,” Burress told the campers during the final camp huddle. “You must have respect for your teammates and play hard for them. There is no other way to succeed.”
 
Harris, now head football coach at Indian River High School in Chesapeake, oversaw the camp. Harris has been a coach in Hampton Roads for three decade. Before Indian River, Harris was an assistant at Norfolk State University, head coach at Elizabeth City State University and head coach of Maury High School in Norfolk and Green Run.

The camp consisted of performance training followed by position practice and scrimmaging.  
 
“Velocity will teach the kids who desire to be players to have better agility,” Harris said. “I complement that by teaching the kids football-related skills so that they can be the best they can be at their position.”
 
Helping Harris coordinate the camp were members of the Norfolk State University football team; Dustin West, Velocity director; and other Velocity staff members.
 
West said the camp provided a unique blend of training to Hampton Roads youth. “By combining the tutelage from Coach Harris with performance training, we offered the aspiring football players of this area an amazing opportunity to grow and learn.”
 
As excited as the camp coordinators were about what they had to offer, the campers’ excitement eclipsed that of the adults. The boys, ages 10 to 14, could not contain their enthusiasm about being able to play the sport they love in front of “legends.”  Every camper had aspirations of becoming a football player at some level, whether high school, college or professional.
 
Michael Butler, 10 and a rising fourth-grader at Cape Henry Collegiate School in Virginia Beach, has always wanted to be a middle linebacker. He knew when his mother found out about the camp, it would help him get much closer to achieving his dream.
 
Matthew Walston, 11 and a rising sixth-grader at Isle of Wight Academy, mirrored Butler’s enthusiasm. “I wanted to go to a football camp, and this seemed like the best fit for me,” Matthew said. “I want to play cornerback in the NFL one day, and I know this camp can definitely help.”


 
The staff said the first camp was a resounding success.  Deborah Sweede, camp coordinator, said the camp will help “feed this generation” and “produce the next generation of athletes.”
 
Harris echoed her sentiments.
 
“The college players helping me here cannot imagine what it would have been like to have the chance to do what these kids are able to do at this camp,” he said. “The lessons that the children learned this week will only allow them to get better and better.”
 


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