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Iowa youth football clinic lets junior Hawkeyes emulate thei

Author:admin Addtime:2018-05-11 01:05:43 Click:

JOHNSTON, Iowa — The more McClain Gorsh went on about Akrum Wadley’s seemingly magical ability to score touchdowns, the harder it was to stand still.

It was 9:47 a.m. on Saturday. McClain, his brother Mason, and his father, Kyle, were waiting in line for the Iowa football youth clinic at Johnston Middle School.

McClain wasn’t excited about reliving his favorite players’ big plays. This was his chance to emulate Wadley.

“I am going to run just like him,” McClain said.

The free clinic lets Iowa players give back to the central Iowa community that supports them. It was a chance for players to interact with 400 kids, but to the McClains and Masons, it was a chance to pretend they are Hawkeyes.

“It really is perfect for them,” Kyle said.

Becoming Hawkeyes

McClain, decked out in a faded black Iowa football jersey, started screaming enthusiastically when campers were asked to get loud before kicking off the first of two 45-minute sessions.

McClain, 8, will play his first season of flag football this year. When his dad learned about the camp online, it seemed like a no-brainer. The clinic was a short drive from their Ankeny, Iowa, home.

Kyle, originally from Clinton, Iowa, grew up a Hawkeyes fan. He passed down a love for the team to his two sons and two daughters. He asked his boys if they wanted to attend.

McClain was all for it, a chance to learn football from his favorite college team. Mason, 12, came to support his brother, even though he recently gave up flag football for basketball.

“I am excited about how they can make me a better player,” McClain said.

There was a delay in his lessons. He started the day at the break station. Each camper rotated among eight other stations.

There was a throwing station and a receiving station. The linebacker station involved agility drills and cones while at another station, campers learned how to backpedal like a defensive back and tried swatting down passes.

Mason’s favorite station involved a tire and a tackling dummy. Safety Brandon Snyder rolled the tire, and Mason lowered his shoulder into it. The drill simulated tackling a moving ball carrier. The other part of the station involved tackling a blocking dummy onto a mat.

Mason sprinted to the tackling dummy, knocking it out of defensive end Matt Nelson’s hands before standing with a big smile.

“It was fun knocking it down,” Mason said. “I like doing that kind of stuff.”

Show your best moves

In past seasons, Iowa held an open spring practice in central Iowa. This year, the Hawkeyes held the youth clinic instead. It was also the team project for the seniors. Fifteen Hawkeyes made the trip.

They remember attending youth camps as children, some run by Hawkeyes. It made a big impact. They wanted to recreate that same experience for these campers.

“It’s something we liked to do and we did growing up because we knew we wanted to play football at the next level,” safety Jake Gervase said. “Hopefully, a lot of these kids have the same feelings.”

Nowhere was the enjoyment more evident than at the defensive line fumble-recovery station. Campers ran in a circle and tackled a dummy with a football atop it. Recovering the football was just the start. They weren’t finished until they performed a celebratory dance.

Some campers dabbed. Others looked like tiny break dancers.

Mason thought back to NFL touchdown celebrations. He spun a football and pretended to start a fire.

McClain’s inspiration came from a different sport. He flexed and shook his hips.

“I stole some NBA players’ moves after they make shots,” McClain said.

The longer the session went, the more ambitious the campers became. A few tried tackling Iowa players. One kid challenged running back Ivory Kelly-Martin to a race.

Others asked questions. McClain and Mason didn’t.

McClain was too busy learning fundamentals, explaining afterward the proper way to throw a football.

Mason left impressed, with a new appreciation for what Iowa players do. He attended the Illinois game last season, but had no idea how demanding the work was each week.

“They said they work really hard doing drills like this,” Mason said. “It is hard work.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz drove home that point at the end of the camp. Mason, McClain and the other campers gathered on the 15-yard line as Ferentz reminded them to keep working hard.

Being Akrum Wadley

Just before 11:20 a.m., the session ended and McClain and Mason ran off the field. They met Kyle under the bleachers, and McClain started explaining to his dad his favorite part of the day.

Kelly-Martin handed him the football. He ran over four yellow pads and sprinted about five more yards, protecting the football the entire time.

McClain loved it because the drill helped Wadley score all those touchdowns. Maybe, it will do the same for McClain.

“I want to be a running back and this will help me run faster,” McClain said. “This will help me be like him.”