Nearly 500 prep for season at annual DODDS-Europe football camp
August 15, 2006
ANSBACH, Germany — Try telling the 490 or so high school students and 60 adult volunteers who showed up for the 2006 DODDS-Europe football camp that football is just a game.
For this annual three-day event, football is months of planning, days of volunteer effort and hours of travel time. The result is that the camp at Ansbach High School is unlike any other, according to director Marcus George.
“I’ve been at camps at Auburn University where we’d have 250-300 kids,” said George, who began putting this year’s event together last February. “We have nearly 500 here.”
Certainly the campers at Auburn didn’t have to deal with the travel problems the far-flung DODDS system puts on some of the 24 schools here.
The Sigonella Jaguars, for example, endured 34 hours on the highway to take part in the non-contact, preseason gathering designed to boost the skills of Europe-based players. The Jags shared a bus for the final 23 hours of that journey with the Naples Wildcats, who, in addition to this trip over the Alps, play twice in Germany this season.
At least they arrived. Lakenheath was stranded at the airport in England, George said.
The camp got off to a quick start Wednesday morning when Ramstein’s Cyril Borden and Vilseck’s Jamal Grant won the 40-yard dash competitions.
“That’s all I came for,” said Borden, a junior running back who was clocked in 4.9 seconds, fastest among the juniors and seniors present. “I love to race. It’s great to compete against all these guys and have a chance to prove yourself.”
Grant, a freshman wide receiver, also was clocked in 4.9 seconds over grass wet from morning showers, tops among freshmen and sophomores.
“There are three European sprint champions in my family,” Grant said. “I had to carry on the family tradition.”
The 40-yard dash was the first of several individual competitions scheduled during the team-oriented camp. A vertical-jump contest was to be held Wednesday afternoon, followed by a bench-press event and a pass-punt-and-kick competition Thursday. Friday’s contest is the iron-man event, in which numbers compiled in pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups are subtracted from a player’s time in the mile run.
This year’s event saw the largest turnout of athletes since the preseason camp began as a quarterbacks camp in 1987. The turnout would have been even higher had Lakenheath not been stranded in England by airline cancellations.
Even without the Lancers, the campers’ cots, air mattresses and bedrolls spilled out of the gymnasium, down the halls and into the classrooms of Ansbach High, where they’ll remain until camp breaks up Friday afternoon.
According to Naples assistant coach Dan Dittemeier, Wednesday’s three-hour morning session, the first intensive block of instruction at this year’s camp, lived up to expectations.
“The kids are great,” he said as he headed into a two-hour lunch break that was to be followed by a three-hour afternoon session and a two-hour evening period Wednesday. “They try so hard. You can see improvement right away.”
Bitburg sophomore running back Jerry Archuleta was among those honing his skills.
“We ran drills learning how to carry the ball,” said Archuleta after his first-ever session at this camp. “We’re trying to get up to the level of the juniors and seniors in speed and experience.”
Archuleta’s teammate Brandon Pitts, also a sophomore running back, saw more to the drills than individual effort.
“It’s a fun experience,” he said. “It’s fun to bond with your teammates and meet kids from the other schools.”
Bitburg freshman quarterback Norman Correa, however, couldn’t resist the chance for some friendly needling of a foe from far away.
“The Naples kids say that we’re their big rivals because we beat them in the [European Division II] semifinals last year,” Correa said. “My stretching partner was from Naples and I kept getting on him about that game. He kept getting mad.”