Plainfield East camp features Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly

SHARE Plainfield East camp features Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly

Youth football clinics aren’t new to University of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, but having one off campus was a first-time event for the veteran coach.

“I wanted to get off campus because I think it’s an important time for football to teach it, especially tackling, safe tackling techniques,’’ Kelly said. “That was kind of what spurred it.’’

Kelly partnered with ProCamps to bring a 3½-hour camp Thursday to Plainfield East High School, where members of youth football programs from Plainfield, Romeoville, Bellwood, Maywood and Dixon were among those who worked out at the Bengals’ stadium.

In 23 years as a head coach at Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Central Michigan, this was the first time Kelly left the confines of a campus to help teach the basics of the game to youngsters.

“You get lost sometimes as the head coach at Notre Dame not being able to coach and teach,’’ Kelly said. “That’s why I got in the profession 25 years ago, to get a chance to teach and coach.

“I got to work with the young kids and teach them how to throw a football. That keeps you young.’’

Plainfield East athletic director Tim Torkelson said ProCamps contacted him “out of the blue’’ a few months ago about setting up a Brian Kelly camp.

“My first response was ‘Why Plainfield East?’ ’’ Torkelson said. “Basically, they were looking at the geographics, Chicago area. Close for Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin. The facilities being fairly new and the amount of practice fields. That’s why we were selected.’’

Kelly said ProCamps often partners with NFL and pro players, but that he was one of the first college coaches they’ve worked with.

“I wanted to do something in the Midwest and a large metropolitan area,’’ Kelly said. “So Chicago just made sense for me.’’

Nearly 300 youths in grades 1 through 8 participated in the camp, including players from the Plainfield Junior Cats, Plainfield Saints and Plainfield Prowlers.

Groups were assembled by age level after an introductory session and a stretching routine. Participants worked on throwing and catching, technique on stance and tackling, speed drills with sprints and finished with 7-on-7 scrimmages.

Plainfield East football coach Mike Romeli was joined by several East coaches and 20-plus varsity players working at the event.

East junior Daniel Jackson, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end/tight end, called working with the kids “a great experience.’’

“It really humbles me to come out here and help with the kids, seeing them having so much fun,’’ Jackson said. “I really get a kick out of it.

“Meeting Brian Kelly was definitely one of the highlights of my year. Him being a coach going to the BCS national championship, it was just amazing meeting him. Here he is at my school, on the field.’’

Senior Nick Carrington, a returning starter on the offensive line, had previous coaching experience with his brother’s Plainfield Junior Cats team.

“The basics get reinforced so we can know how to teach younger kids,’’ Carrington said of Thursday’s event. “It’s fun teaching them.

“It’s pretty cool to see a college-level coach here and see how he works. It’s really nice having him come to our school.’’

Romeli said East was notified in March that it would host the event.

“We were very excited when they chose us,’’ Romeli said. “It’s always good to have relationships with guys who are at the next level.

“My guys got to hear him (Kelly) talk and see him out here. For myself and my players, we’re just as excited as the 6-year-olds out here.’’

Kelly said his only reason for the trip to the Chicago area was the camp, which he concluded by addressing the campers and coaches:

“What I’m telling you is probably not exactly what you want to hear,” he said. “But if you want to keep playing this game, if you want to keep playing athletics, you need to take care of your academics. Make sure that happens.

“I was very impressed with all of you, but I was equally impressed with our coaches. One last must: You must commit yourself to your education. You must commit yourself academically.’’

Kelly left the camp participants with these words:

“Have a great summer, enjoy the rest of the time, and Go Irish.’’

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