Annual football youth clinic brings together players, fans
Players were scattered throughout the Duffy Daugherty Building before their annual Green-White spring game on April 7 to help demonstrate different football drills at the annual football youth clinic.
Approximately 700 kids interacted with their favorite players at each station with a designated time of 12 minutes and a chance to get pictures with the team after.
Junior safety David Dowell supports the event every year, which brings back old memories of doing similar events in his hometown of North Ridgeville, Ohio.
“It’s always fun and rewarding giving back to the community, giving back to kids,” Dowell said. “When I was this young, I would look up to guys like me and stuff like that. It’s definitely rewarding and gratifying to be able to do this every year. Every year it gets more special.”
MSU alumnus Terry Allen made his first-ever trip to the youth clinic with his two children to give them an experience he never had.
It was also a chance to come back to campus and see all the changes that have been made to the university since he graduated and to go onto the practice field, which he has never been on before.
For him, this new experience brings a different type of emotion.
“I’m kind of jealous of the kids getting to play,” Allen, a graduate of the class of 2000, said. “Coming here is kind of neat, to be back on campus and see how it’s changed. I think it’s cool to take my kids here and do things with them I never got to do.”
Ypsilanti native Nathan Bentley even received a high-five from head coach Mark Dantonio in the middle of one of the sessions.
“It was really nice,” Bentley said. “He’s my favorite out of all of them.”
Not only did Bentley meet his favorite Spartan football player, junior quarterback Brian Lewerke, the 11-year-old picked his favorite drill to do throughout the clinic.
“Probably the defensive part,” Bentley said. “We were tackling them and doing skills.”
Senior tight end Matt Sokol experienced his fifth youth clinic of his Spartan career.
He said he never gets tired of seeing the kids doing different types of dances to celebrate their touchdowns and watching the young players try to tackle his fellow teammate, senior running back LJ Scott.
“It’s just an honor,” Sokol said. “It’s an honor to be in that position and it’s a privilege. It just makes you appreciate it, when you were younger and looking up to college football players.”
To keep it safe and spread out, the kids were split up by their age groups, ranging from ages eight to 12 years old.
Eight-year-old Myra VanWashenova said she enjoyed her day running around the practice field and learning new things from a favorite Spartan of hers.
VanWashenova spent the day with her cousin, redshirt freshman linebacker Brent Mossburg, which was her favorite part of the day.
“(The best part was) playing with my cousin,” VanWashenova said. “Doing all the drills, to run backwards and sideways and to catch the ball.”
Collin Francis, a 12-year-old native from Davison, said Lewerke is his favorite Spartan.
He idolizes him as a quarterback since he plays the same position as well.
“My favorite part was probably the interception drill, where you caught the interception and ran for the touchdown,” Francis said.
Francis brought his friend and fellow Spartan fan, 12-year-old Kai Lyle, along to the camp.
Lyle said he enjoyed the running back drill since that is the position he plays along with his fellow teammate.
“We basically had to jump and do two spin moves and run through,” Lyle said.
Lyle said his number one dream is to hopefully come to MSU and be able to play in Spartan Stadium, where he can wear the green and white jersey on the field to represent the team he loves.
“Because they’re the best team,” Lyle said. “They’re amazing. They have the best players. They know the best drills.”
Emily Sucura came to the youth clinic after living in East Lansing for a few years with her husband and former Spartan offensive guard Dave Sucura.
She said she loves bringing her children to the event and started bringing them when they were as young as two or three years old.
From there, she has seen an increase in the program.
“It’s one of my favorite events ever. I like this more than the games,” Sucura said. “For the kids to get the hands on interaction and be with the players and meet the players — and coach Dantonio speaks. We just love it.”
Sports editor Jonathan LeBlanc contributed reporting to this article.