CLEVELAND -- The 2012 rookie class started their tour of the city of Cleveland with a trip to the Cleveland Browns Youth Football Camp at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Wednesday morning.
While on the field at the stadium, the players helped the 250 campers between the ages of seven and 12 improve their skills and work on the fundamentals of football -- including passing, kicking and blocking -- in a fun environment on the same patch of grass the Browns use for their eight regular season home games every fall.
“The Browns do an excellent thing for the rookies, not only letting us get to know the stadium and the city, but to give back to these younger kids and that’s what it’s all about,” said linebacker
As they observed and participated in the drills with the campers -- including a relay where Acho held a drill bag and carried one of the participants while running down the field -- the players realized they were sharing the field with the future of the game.
“I’m hoping that they take away a lot of teamwork skills and a lot of sportsmanship skills,” Miller said. “This is crucial, at this age, to understand that there’s a lot about being a team player and a lot about being on a team and knowing what you can do to help out the team.”
Acho followed, “When I was about this age, I was doing things like this, not necessarily the camps, but this is when I got involved in the game of football and how you excel, it’s all determined by how you begin. They have to learn how to enjoy the game, but they also have to learn how to have fun with their teammates. If you can’t have fun, you won’t succeed. Not only is it about fundamentals, it’s also about putting the ‘Fun’ in fundamentals.”
Mike Ptacek, the North Olmsted High School varsity football coach, served as the camp’s director and has been with the yearly event since its inception more than a decade ago.
“I love being here and being a part of it,” Ptacek said. “I’m a football coach and it’s what I do. I’m fortunate enough that I’ve gotten to the point where my kids are involved in the camp, so I have an opportunity to see them run around and interact with the other athletes here and interact with the coaches. It’s a valuable experience for me.”
Much like the USA Football Coaching School the Browns hosted this past spring, the training for the campers was age-specific. The sets of curriculum were broken down into three age ranges, 7-8 year olds, 9-10 year olds and 11-12 year olds.
“They’ve been out here every day for four hours learning every aspect of the game of football, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, different positions,” said Matt Yunker, manager of youth football for the Browns. “The greatest thing you see out here is kids 7-12 years old and the rookies are having just as much fun with these kids, laughing with them, getting involved with the drills and really taking ownership of what it means to be a professional football player. It’s really special to see that interaction and hopefully, give these kids an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The Cleveland Browns Youth Football Camp is presented by Medical Mutual of Ohio in association with Cleveland Clinic, Russell Athletic and Subway.