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Crater hosts NFL camp

CENTRAL POINT — Sgt. 1st Class Clint Blevins saw more than just football players on the fields at Central Point High on Tuesday.

The National Guard recruiter saw potential soldiers.

"This is our target audience," said Blevins, who is here to oversee a free NFL High School Player Development camp. "We want recruits who are athletes and kids who make good decisions and show leadership."

Certainly, there was no shortage of participants.

A large group of local football players from Crater High and other area schools showed up to the individual camp, which was paid for by the NFL and National Guard.

The camp, which began on Monday and runs through Thursday, is being hosted and run by Comets head coach John Beck and his staff. It follows a detailed practice plan designed by Vanderbilt University and the NFL.

The NFL camp is the only one of its kind to occur in Oregon this summer, said Blevins, a 1995 Roseburg High graduate; there were, however, no NFL representatives on hand.

Players were divided into two teams: seniors and sophomores wore white jerseys and juniors and freshmen sported black garb.

The no-pad drills ranged from route running to a fumble recovery activity. A buzzer sounded when each session was over, and coaches quickly directed campers to their next station.

Crater senior RJ Morgan, who has verbally committed to play at the University of Arizona, said he has enjoyed the chance to help teach younger campers and watch them figure out correct mechanics.

"It's fun to learn with them," Morgan said. "Once they know they can do it, they can go farther with it."

Said Beck: "Everyone is trying to help everyone. We just want to make it so it's open to every kid in the Rogue Valley."

For most, the camp is part of a whirlwind summer that includes passing leagues, linemen practices and personal workouts.

"It's a busy time of year, but everyone is getting better," Crater junior Casey Stribling said. "You can see it."

Athletes and coaches won't just take home new skills or knowledge either. They were given free jerseys, T-shirts, backpacks, wrist bands, drinks and some other stuff. The goods arrived via FedEx late Monday and were presented to campers on Tuesday.

"They were all pretty excited," Blevins said.

For Blevins, the camp is a chance to educate high school students about the National Guard. He and Staff Sgt. Greg Weston have given talks about National Guard values before and after each session.

On Monday, they explained the importance of altruism.

"We gave them a homework assignment and asked them to do something that is selfless," Blevins said. "A few told us this morning that they went home and made dinner for their mom and dad or went and mowed a lawn for their neighbors."

Those stories were refreshing to Blevins, who said he was on his own by the age of 17 because he lacked guidance.

"I wasn't the greatest of kids I guess you could say," Blevins said. "When I was young somebody said, 'Hey come join the Guard.' I was like, 'Alright'. I got in and have been in 15 years now and it's my career."

Blevins, 34, is a success story. The former baseball player served a year in Tallil, southern Iraq, with the 41st Infantry Brigade before returning home in 2010 and becoming a recruiter.

"It makes you love the good, ol' USA after being over there," Blevins said. "Things are just totally different, their way of life and culture. It seems like they are put back a century in time."

Morgan said he felt right at home on the football field on Tuesday.

"This is what I love to do," he said.

And even though Blevins is right at home now — he coaches his son's Kolbi's youth baseball team and is about to earn a bachelor's degree online from Post University — he said he wouldn't hesitate to go back to Iraq and serve his country.

"Absolutely I would," he said.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com

Crater High football coach John Beck talks to players at an NFL High School Player Development camp at Dutch Meyer Field on Tuesday. - Photo by Larry Stauth