Current Rookies Train Future Rookies


Brian Anderson, a 9-year-old football fan from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was one of over 250 youngsters who came to the NFL Youth Football Clinic to learn something new, run a few drills and get to meet some NFL rookies.

He ended up being hoisted in the air in celebration by a bunch of Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles rookies following a "tackle" in a one-on-one drill in which Anderson, in one swift move, de-flagged a fellow camper, who was carrying a football.

The rookies, who were there as part of the annual NFL Rookie Symposium in Palm Beach, Fla., reacted as if they had just won the Super Bowl, nearly suffocating poor Anderson before lifting him up toward the sky in jubilation.

"It felt good," Anderson said moments after the play, later admitting that he would root for the Lions since they rooted for him.

Experiences like this were happening everywhere. On a pass-rushing drill, camper after camper knocked over a tackling dummy held by Raiders defensive tackle Tyler Brayton while getting cheered on by other Raiders and Jets rookies. On the other side of the field, Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant was giving pointers to a youngster on how to cover in a passing drill while quarterback Seneca Wallace was giving instruction to the opposing wideout.

Heck, players like DeAndrew Rubin of the Packers pitched in by tying one boy's shoe before he scampered away with a football, while Bills running back Willis McGahee encouraged kid after kid.

Campers went through all sorts of drills and exercises that taught them some of the specifics from every position. Whether it was diving for a pass or taking on a fellow camper in a receiving drill, everyone got involved in every aspect of the game.

"This is the most rewarding part of my trip," Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller said after teaching youngsters how to grip a football. "I remember when I was their age and if I could have done this with NFL players, I would have been ecstatic. I'd be talking about it for months."

Every rookie on hand shared those sentiments.

"It's fun for us because we never really get to hang out and play with the kids," Panthers receiver Walter Young said with a smile. "To see where it starts at and see the smiles on their faces and the fun that they're having is just a blast for us. There were even a couple of good athletes, which is good to see. Maybe they will eventually keep the tradition of the NFL going 10 or 12 years from now."

Trufant, the 10th overall pick in the draft, even went as far as to ask campers for their autographs after he gave them his. By the time the session was over, his towel was covered with signatures of kids 8 to 15 years of age.

"They see us and they see us signing autographs," Trufant explained, "and I'm trying to give them a little bit of the experience we're going through, make them feel like they can be like us one day and maybe have a chance to play in the NFL and sign some autographs. Anything to let them have fun and feel good about themselves.

"I've seen a lot of talent out here. That's why I had the guys sign my towel. Maybe one day it will be worth something."

So who had more fun: The kids or the players?

"We had more fun!" Lions DE Cory Redding said before motivating a youngster to de-flag an opposing runner.

"Nah, both sides had an equal amount of fun," teammate James Davis said.

"Yeah, both sides had fun. That's how we feel about it," Redding said, changing his mind. "Shoot, I wanted to do the drills."

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