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Hundreds come to LaGrange for football camp

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

LAGRANGE – For college coaches looking to keep an eye on some of the top football players in this part of the world, LaGrange was the place to be last week.

The Champions Elite Football Camp, sponsored by LaGrange College head coach Steve Pardue, was held on Thursday and Friday, with hundreds of high-school players participating.

There were four different sessions spread out over the two days, as players worked out with college coaches on the LaGrange College football practice field and soccer field, as well as Callaway Stadium.

At each session, hundreds of players were led through various drills under the watchful eyes of college coaches from across the country.

The camp provided the coaches an opportunity to not only see the players work out, but talk to them as they look to build their recruiting classes.

Among the instructors were members of the LaGrange College staff, as well as college coaches on all levels from across the country.

Pardue, who took over as LaGrange College’s head coach earlier this year, said it was a “win-win” situation for the football program.

“It’s kind of a two-fold event for us,” said Pardue, who won three state championships during his time as the head football coach at LaGrange High. “Obviously we get a bunch of kids on our campus, and we kind of get our brand out there. More than 70 colleges come in. It’s been neat, because a lot of the college coaches said we had no idea your place was this nice. So I think it’s a win-win for everything.”

Numerous players from the local schools participated in the camp, and Callaway running-backs coach and recruiting coordinator Matt Neighbors said it was a positive experience for his players.

One of Callaway’s players, defensive back and wide receiver Courtney Williams, received an offer from Western Kentucky during the camp.

Numerous Troup players also took part, and Carson Wreyford won the kickoff and field-goal competition at one of the camp sessions.

“It was really well-run,” Neighbors said. “From a satellite-camp standpoint, just from my past experience with them, sometimes they don’t really work the guys that much, but that one, those kids got after it. They really pushed them, and they worked them. It was a really good camp from that standpoint. And the guys loved it, too. They enjoyed it.”

Satellite camps have become popular over the past few seasons, largely because they give coaches an opportunity to see so many talented players in one location.

At the LaGrange College camp, each participant was issued a number, and the visiting coaches were provided with a handout so they could identify each player.

“Once you get them registered, as quick as you can you try to get the runoffs so the college coaches can look out and see number 248, I like number 248. Who’s that?,” Pardue said. “All that works together.”

It wasn’t just a recruiting tool, though.

It was a teaching camp, and while the college coaches were obviously there to recruit, they were also making sure the players were given some valuable instruction during their time on the field.

“It’s been a real success,” Pardue said. “All the coaches have come here to participate.”

The players also took part in a seminar designed to teach them about the ever-changing NCAA recruiting rules.

College programs from across the country were represented at the two-day event.

The Tennessee Volunteers are in the midst of a satellite-camp tour, and their team bus was camped outside Callaway Stadium for the Thursday and Friday sessions.

The bus takes Tennessee coaches to satellite camps all across the country, as head coach Butch Jones looks to help return the program to SEC glory.

Also in attendance at the LaGrange College camp were coaches from Michigan, Oregon, Ohio State, LSU, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.

There were coaches from dozens of other schools representing all levels of NCAA football.

“It’s almost like being at a (coaches) convention,” Pardue said.

The coaches and staff members on the LaGrange College football program were primarily responsible for running the camp, and that’s a big job.

“Our coaches are working really hard,” Pardue said. “There’s a lot that goes into that like just keeping water on three fields, making sure to keep these kids hydrated.”

Pardue’s hope is that, by hosting the camp at LaGrange College, it will benefit the program when it comes to attracting players.

“I was talking to (LaGrange College baseball coach) David Kelton, and they’ve had some of these where maybe a kid didn’t come here initially, but they go somewhere else and they look to transfer, and they remember this was a nice place,” Pardue said. “It’s something that we hope we can continue growing.”

Pardue believes the event was also a boon for the community, with so many people coming from far-away places.

“I think it’s good for the city,” Pardue said. “There are a lot of coaches, and a lot of players staying in hotels, going out to eat here. It’s one of the deals where it brings people to our town.”

For the local players, having a camp at home means there’s no travel involved, which is always a good thing.

“It was a really cool experience for the kids, and for the city of LaGrange, too,” Neighbors said. “I thought it turned out really well.”