About 600 high school football players, some of the best in Michigan, arrived with eager anticipation Thursday at the Sound Mind Sound Body football academy at Wayne State.
After negotiating the crush of humanity at Wayne State’s General Lectures building and receiving their jerseys and backpacks, the players got something else — a healthy dose of reality from some of the nearly 40 scheduled speakers.
Kevin Vickerson, who played at Detroit King, Michigan State and eight seasons as an NFL defensive tackle, was brutally honest as he showed the players statistics and showered them with tough love.
Vickerson emphasized the need for players — who also came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, New York and Canada — to get a meaningful college education after he pointed to the dire prospects of NFL careers that average 31/3 years.
“Where do you stand?” Vickerson asked the players. “What are you when this game’s over? All of you guys are going to be former football players soon. Some sooner than others. What will you fall back on then?”
Vickerson said 59% of college football players graduate. Again, he stressed the players — who will be intensely scouted and scrutinized today during meetings and on-field drills with college coaches — need to make their education a priority.
“They’re going to use you up,” he said. “They will do it. They will empty that bucket till there’s nothing left. Use them by getting your education.”
But the SMSB academy, in its 12th year in the Detroit area, remains an invaluable resource for high schoolers beginning their journey toward elite competition.
“Sound Mind Sound Body is basically based on the concept where we are providing young men with life-skill sessions,” camp director Deon Johnson said. “We talk about them having transferable skills, trying to take skills they learn in football and transfer them out there into the workforce and in college and being a man, fatherhood, all those type of things. We talk to them about sexual awareness.”
The players will have a session on NCAA eligibility and recruiting rules. They will hear lectures today and then receive 3 hours of on-field instruction from some of the country’s top coaches like Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.
“I’m just excited to see all the coaches and showcase my skills,” said DeAndre Square, an incoming junior linebacker at Detroit Cass Tech. “It’s fun, it’s a little intimidating. I’ll pull through.”
Johnson said the top-flight coaches always are at the forefront of players’ minds.
“Everyone wants to see the big-name coaches,” he said. “They want to perform in front of the big-name coaches. A lot of the kids when they were writing … sending e-mails … they were excited about having an opportunity to perform in front of so many head coaches.”
That attention from coaches should be easier to get this year for the players, since the SMSB academy has been cut in half from last year’s 1,200 players in order to improve the quality of the event, Johnson said.
Ultimately, the goal of the academy is to make the students better football players by teaching them all aspects of the sport. And maybe have a little fun, said Cass Tech incoming sophomore cornerback Xavier Goldsmith, who is attending his third SMSB academy.
“I’m just ready to compete against everyone in the country,” he said, “and get coached up by some of the coaches and just have fun.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.
What: Sound Mind Sound Body football academy.
When: 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. today.
Where: Wayne State.
Noteworthy: Top Michigan recruits from the classes of 2017-20 are expected to attend. More than 25 major college coaches are scheduled to make an appearance, including U-M’s Jim Harbaugh, MSU’s Mark Dantonio and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.