Mesa football team instructs next wave of players

Zach Ary. a 11-year-old from GJ,  gets ready to hit the blocking dummy at the Mesa St College Football camp on Bergman Field on the campus.

Austin Higley heard about the Mesa State youth football camp and decided to give it a shot.

The Grand Junction 11-year-old was one of more than 80 boys entering grades two through eight who participated in the two-day camp Monday and Tuesday at Bergman Field.

“My friends told me about it,” Higley said. “I thought it would be fun. I was excited about it.”
Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno was pleased with the turnout.

“The numbers are up, but I think it can be bigger,” Ramunno said. “Once we settle in to our facilities, it will be great.”

The youngsters participated in several drills, including running receiver routes, how to run through tackles and tackling.

Logan Kirkland, 11, of Grand Junction was smiling after going through a drill bouncing off tackling dummies.

“We are hopping over bags and going through two guys with bags and tackling the last bag,” he said. “It’s tons of fun working with the (college) players. We actually play some games.”

The boys, though, began the camp Monday a little timid.

“They were shy at first,” Mesa junior cornerback Sean Matheson said. “Now, they are challenging me a few times. They are asking all sorts of questions. When they find out I’m a cornerback, they want to play wide receiver against me.

“I feel like a celebrity. They are all asking for our autographs. It’s nice helping out the future Mavericks.”

Kirkland had several autographs on his camp T-shirt.

“It’s really fun to see how much they learned from yesterday to today,” sophomore linebacker Tanner Ridgeway said. “Coach Ramunno preaches to us about working with the kids a lot. At first, they were intimidated. Now they mess around with us, try to tackle us and jump on our backs. It’s not just all fun. When it’s time to drill, they do it.”

“This is great for our players,” Ramunno said. “It’s a way to give back to the community.”

Ramunno said he’s had 30 players help with camp.

Mesa State football players report for check-in and physicals today and begin practice Thursday for the 2009 season.

The Mavericks open the season at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 against Central Washington University at Stocker Stadium. The Wildcats reached the NCAA Division II playoffs last season.


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