Callaway linemen work hard at camp
Published 11:10 am Friday, June 14, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Some football camps are glorified recruiting showcases.
At other camps, it’s all about the work, not about making an impression on the visiting college coaches.
The Mike Hodges offensive-line camp, without a doubt, falls into the second category.
Hundreds of offensive linemen representing dozens of schools participated in the five-day camp that wrapped up on Wednesday, and it was all about getting down and dirty and putting in the work necessary to make an impact on Friday nights in the fall.
The Callaway Cavaliers participate in the camp every year, and 22 linemen were in Cochran this week working to improve their skills.
“That’s the biggest group of offensive linemen we’ve ever taken to the Hodges camp,” Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier said. “Those guys, they always improve so much down there at that camp. We get a lot out of it. It’s important.”
It wasn’t just offensive linemen participating.
Fullbacks and tight ends, players whose blocking is critical to the success of the offense, also went to the camp.
“We took two fullbacks. We took two tight ends,” said Callaway offensive-line coach Robbie Adams, who accompanied the players to the camp. “We didn’t just take linemen. We take everybody that helps in the running game.”
Adams added that “we took a lot of young pups, a lot of incoming freshmen. They all got better. Everybody came back better.”
Among the Callaway players taking part in the camp was senior Tate Johnson, who on the first day announced that he plans on signing with Auburn.
Johnson has gone to his share of recruiting showcases, and he said the Hodges camp bears little resemblance to those events.
“This is strictly about the work,” Johnson said. “There aren’t any college coaches out there.”
Johnson added that “I’ve probably put my hand in the dirt more times combined here than at all the other camps.”
Napier calls it “a grind camp.”
“There’s nothing pretty about it, but if you want to get better at football, and you want to get mentally tougher and physically tougher, that’s the place you want to go,” Napier said. “That’s the place we’re proud to send our kids every year.”
The camp was particularly important this year since Callaway is having to replace three offensive linemen, including four-year starter Keiondre Jones, who is now at Auburn.
“We definitely have some big shoes to fill with KJ, and those guys that were good players for us,” Napier said. “But they’ll do a good job, and they’re steadily working at it.”
The two returning starters on the line are Johnson and Austin Thomas, and Lathan Patterson also has plenty of experience
Adams said all three players provided terrific leadership.
“Tate’s a grinder. He’s a leader, he’s a hard-worker,” Adams said. “Austin Thomas, I can’t say enough good things about him. He goes and works every day. Every time he steps on the field, he’s going to be the hardest worker out there.”
Adams added that Patterson “loves that camp. He looks forward to that every year. I have a few of them, they like to work, and they go down there and it builds camaraderie, and that’s what I love about it. That camp, they work, they grind, they sweat, the eat and sleep. That’s about it.”