Hunter-Kinard-Tyler head coach Jermaine Derricott took a look at the group of defensive backs he had during an individual session Tuesday afternoon and began to imagine the possibilities.
"I could win a state championship with these guys," he said to his assistant as the players were taking a water break.
Having a team boasting close to 185 athletic players could be seen as a coach's dream come true. That dream became a reality for four days for T&D Region coaches as Orangeburg-Wilkinson hosted the NFL High School Player Development training program.
"The main purpose of this camp is exactly what it states," site manager Patricia White-Harris said. "It is to build character development with the players. Within the school districts a lot of times, you know how kids like to play sports. They don't find the academic part of it to be important. They just do barely enough to get by. A lot of kids don't realize what it really takes as far as their core courses and academics to be able to go on and play football even in higher education. So...we educate them on character development."
Orangeburg-Wilkinson was invited to take part in last year's NFL High School Player Development program which was held at Lower Richland. This year, after speaking with Harris, Bruins head coach Tommy Brown was able to have the program make a stop at Bruin Parkway free of charge allowing athletes from five nearby schools to learn valuable lessons to use off the field.
"That's what I think this program does for our athletes," Brown said. "Our athletes need to model good citizenship. They need to model being good students. They need to model being good leaders. With this program, all these things are taught."
Goal setting, time management and self-health were among the character modules that guest speakers touched upon on the opening day of the program. Former NFL players Dewayne Harper and Deveron Harper, who are also O-W alums, shared some advice with the players during the final two days of the camp before the players from H-K-T, Orangeburg Prep, Lake Marion and other schools hit the field to work on basic football techniques.
"I think they realize that football is football no matter if they're from H-K-T, Bamberg, OP, O-W or Lake Marion," Brown said. "Basic football is basic football and the fundamentals remain the same. So, these young men are getting to hear the same thing they hear at their school and they get to see how other athletes do the same drills that they do."
The players were split up into two separate units during the four-day program. As they built friendships, they worked with other players from other schools giving them a chance to learn from and compete against one another in individual drills, group drills and 7-on-7 passing drills.
"A lot of the kids sort of know each other," Derricott said. "With the new technology, they know each other through Facebook and all this. They know each other and they come out here and they're talking to each other to a point where if they can't understand what I'm saying, some of my kids can relate to them. It's a great situation. I've really enjoyed it."
Derricott isn't the only one who enjoyed himself throughout the week. Several of the players were able to have a lot of fun challenging and pushing each other to do well in the drills during the first three days and the jamboree on Thursday.
"In the end, nobody's worried about wins and losses," Brown said. "Nobody's worried about who's the better athlete. All they're worrying about is getting each other better. Each day, you want to step on the field and you want to be a better person and a better athlete when I leave. By competing in these drills and competing in this competition, you get to do that and you don't have to be concerned about who's watching. All they have to do is be loose, react, talk and have fun."
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