By John Raffel
Summer in Michigan is a busy time for football teams and players trying to get ready for fall camp, which begins Aug. 11. The regular seasons gets underway Aug. 28.
But football players are spending plenty of time at individual and team camps. Among the most popular camps for individual players have been those conducted by former collegiate standout and NFL player Mill Coleman, currently an assistant coach at Farmington Hills Harrison in the Detroit area.
“I've done these camps at least five years,” Coleman said. “I've done camps year-round from January all the way up to the football season.”
Coleman has a 50-yard training field at the Michigan State Fairgrounds near Detroit.
But he also takes his camps on the road. Coleman had NFL players on hand for a camp in mid-June at Farmington Hills High School as part of his Mill Coleman Football Fundamentals program.
Among the instructors at that camp was Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton, also a former Harrison and Michigan State QB. In mid-July, Coleman has another camp in the area which provides training in speed and agility, team fundamentals and more for ages 6 to 13.
“It's where I grew up. I have an opportunity to come here and give back to the kids,” Stanton said. “I mixed with them in every aspect of the game.”
Stanton said he'll always remember coming to similar youth camps when he was of age.
“The best way to learn is to get the knowledge from people who actually do it,” Stanton said. “There's no better way of going than learning from people at the highest level. Getting the opportunities to have what I had at the young age and get the instruction I did is a valuable thing to do. It's great we have guys willing to come back and give of their time.”
“Drew was instrumental in getting other Lions to partake in our camp,” Coleman said.
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the NFL's No. 2 overall draft pick in 2007, was also at Coleman's camp at Farmington Hills Harrison. Stanton was Detroit's second pick that year.
Coleman's camps are basically designed for quarterbacks and receivers.
“I've brought in Ron Rice, a (former) defensive back with the Detroit Lions,” Coleman said. “We'll develop a defensive back academy. Our focus right now is on quarterbacks and receivers.”
Rice, who played defensive back and quarterback at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, is on the staff of a Pop Warner organization in Southfield.
“We'll try to emphasize on the basic fundamentals of playing the safety position,” Rice said.
At Harrison, Coleman was an All-State and All-American quarterback, who led his team to three-straight state championships. He still holds records for yardage and state championships. The school has won 12 total state championships.
He then played at Michigan State and was a starter as quarterback, wide receiver, running back and punt returner and earned Big 10 honors. He later played two seasons apiece for the Chicago Bears and two for the Montreal Alouettes. He hasn't played since 2002.
Coleman said his camps generally have 40 youngsters at a Saturday session with two hours on the field and one hour in the classroom.
“We use videos so they can see what we're trying to teach them,” Coleman said. “A majority of them are from the Detroit area. But we also get some from the west side of the state.
“We focus a lot on learning and repetition.”
Coleman also brings in running backs like Detroit's Brian Calhoun. The Lions selected Calhoun with their third-round choice (74th overall) in 2006 to add depth and versatility to their offense.
“It's very important for these kids. I wish I would have been involved when I was younger that their age,” Calhoun said. “Nowadays kids are starting so much younger getting trained by different professionals. It's great for them and a great learning experience. Hopefully it can soak in and they can apply this to their football future.”
All across Michigan, camps are in full swing. On the west side of the state, Muskegon Oakridge coach Jack Schugars has been busy with two camps at Russell A. Erickson Stadium. He had a one-day camp emphasizing on kicking, punting and long snapping.
The camp staff included Tom Creguer, the special teams coordinator at Northwood University in Midland, Mich., and Dave Arnold, former kicking coach for Colorado State University and the Seattle Seahawks.
Schugars also had a camp for offensive lineman skills. Staff members included Mike Sullivan, head coach at Northwood University, and Jeff Hancock, offensive coordinator at Adrian College in Michigan.
Schugars said he had 56 players at his lineman's camp.
“There was a great amount of coaching and teaching,” Schugars said. “The kids had a great time.”
At the kicking, punting and snapping camp, “we brought in quality coaches with Dave Arnold and Mike Sullivan,” Schugars said. “We had 51 kids with some good teaching and coaching.”
When the real games finally do begin in late August, fans won't have to wait long to see some of the state's best battle it out. St. Mary Prep travels to East Grand Rapids Aug. 28, while Detroit King faces Muskegon a day later.
Some girls athletes across Michigan are engaged in numerous sports during the summer to get ready for their respective 2008-2009 seasons. Some go triple-time with activity in basketball, softball and volleyball camps, clinics and games during the summer.
Girls basketball players at Stanton Central Montcalm, located near the Lansing area, say practices and summer games are critical for success during the winter.
“We just got back from Portland (Mich.) and had a little scrimmage there,” said senior Kelsey Combs. “Then we went to Northwood University (Midland, Mich.) and had a scrimmage there. It helps us a ton. We didn't have a summer program last year. Everyone is coming back and we're all excited to play.”
“Just to be out there and have practices helps so much,” said Central senior Jackie Swanson.