By VINCE PELUSO and BOB ETTINGER
HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —
As far as Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is concerned, Year 3 of the Urban Meyer/Dean Hood Football Camp will be bigger and better than ever.
“Dean and I kind of had this vision a few years ago, I was a little disappointed when I heard we made the kids pay, that’s not what this is about,” he said. “Next year, we’re going to really discuss this and make it as big as possible. The objective isn’t to just teach football, we have so many people here talking about real-life stuff.”
The camp swelled to 357 participants this year, the second edition of the camp.
It also included roughly 35 area coaches who helped run the camp.
Meyer said the growth from Year 2 to Year 3 will be even bigger.
“What happens from this year to Year 3 should be an explosion,” he said. “Everyone says cap it. No, let not cap it. Let’s bring everyone in and do it right. The objective is to make it the best it can be.”
For Dave Miller of ESPN 970 WFUN, who in conjunction with Dr. William A. Seeds helped put on the event, Meyer’s thought were news to him.
“Well that’s the first I’ve heard of it, too,” he said with a laugh. “My initial intention when we planned this was to start planning for next year as soon as it was over. You don’t put annual in front of it if you don’t have it every year.
“None of it starts until they (Meyer and Hood) say they’re in so apparently they told everyone they’re in so next year, I guess we’re having it.”
Anyone who saw Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood work with the younger campers at Spire on Monday saw a man who really loves his work.
Hood said the connection he had with the youngsters comes naturally.
“I like kids, I’ve got four of my own, 12, 10, 7 and 5, I’ve been trying for a couple years, talking my wife into having another one,” he said. “That’s kind of in my wheelhouse. I like kids. I’ve got a passion for kids.”
He also loves football, something he believes is important in a young man’s life.
“I love the game of football,” he said. “I’m blessed to be able to coach football. It really is the best classroom in America — that football field. People talk all the time about sports being extracurricular. I think sports are co-curricular. English teachers love English, math teachers love math. But I venture to say there’s more opportunity and coaches helping kids be better dads, better neighbors, better employees by the character and education they’re getting on the field than the classroom.
“I really believe athletics is co-curricular with education. I just love the chance to empower kids to not only be a good football player but be a good human being.”
Meyer complimented Hood’s ability to work with the kids while saying he’s better suited to work with the older kids in the camp.
“Hey Dean, get some coloring books and some balloons and you make some animals,” he said, drawing laughter from the assembled coaches and media. “Dean will handle the little peanuts and we’ll handle the bigger kids.”
Aaron Hernandez, formerly of the New England Patriots, was charged with first-degree murder last week in connection to the shooting of Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez was a recruit of Meyer’s and played for him for three years while at the coach was at Florida.
When Meyer was asked during a question and answer session following the camp about what he’s been feeling since Hernandez’s arrest, the coach declined to discuss the topic.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” he simply stated before fielding questions for another nine minutes on a variety of other topics.
Seeds, a camp sponsor, addressed the campers as the camp opened and asked for the youngsters to make him a pledge.
“Make me a promise,” Seeds requested. “Every hour you spend playing video games is an hour you’ll spend working on what you learn today.”
Seeds also reminded the players to keep an open mind.
“Today, you will be working with people who are interested in helping you,” he said. “Don’t get discouraged if things don’t go well. It’s all about learning.”
Picking the brain
Lakeside football coach Frank Hall took a moment just before the camp began to get a bit of advice from Lake Erie College head coach Mark McNellie.
McNellie took out a piece of paper right there on the spot and diagrammed a defensive coverage for Hall. The two agreed to connect later to discuss it in a bit more depth.
The scheme in question was learned from none other than Hood.
“You know who the best person to talk to about it is that guy over there,” McNellie said, pointing at Hood. “I got it from him.”
Dream, then do
Meyer gave a brief insight into what he expects of the members of his staff at OSU.
“We’re always looking for doers,” he said. “Idea people are really cool. But if they don’t follow up and do something about it, they have zero value to our staff. If they don’t start doing something quickly, then maybe it’s time to pull them side and let them know they need to move on.”
Meyer recognized Hall and the job he was undertaking with the Dragons. In saying he and Hood would like to help Ashtabula in any way possible, Hall and the Dragons were brought up.
“I told Frank the answer is yes,” Meyer said. “I’d love to wake up one morning and see Ashtabula Lakeside made the playoffs. The answer is yes. You’ve got people here who want to help.
“Wouldn’t that be great, Dean? My ass would be on the sideline wearing your gear and saying, ‘Let’s go get this!’”
Then Meyer looked right at Hall in a room full of coaches and media members.
“That’s pressure,” he said to Hall.
Going way back
McNellie and Hood have a bit of history.
“Dean and I have been extremely close for a lot of years now,” McNellie said. “We broke into coaching together. He was the best man at my wedding. He’s a great guy.”