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Camp emphasizes making the grade

One by one, the 75 high school seniors-to-be standing up at the 2010 Game Plan Football Academy took their seats.

Six feet or less? Sit down. Forty-yard dash time over 4.9 seconds? Excuse yourself. GPA not where it should be? You know the drill.

In the end, only three were left standing. The exercise was not meant to wreck the college football dreams of most of the kids gathered at the Radford High School gym, but to hammer home the point made over the last three days – Division I football isn’t for everybody, but there are other options if you stick with school.

Academics and different routes to a college education are the points of emphasis at the camp, now in its seventh year, to go along with the standard pigskin techniques and drills offered at other camps.

The camp’s executive director, Asai Gilman, points to the eight months of academic advising that is offered after the camp itself finishes.

"The statistics show about 5 percent of (high school football players) play NCAA football, and 1.8 percent will have a Division-I scholarship," Gilman said. "When you look at the numbers of 200 kids, that’s barely four to five kids.

"What about the (remaining) 196? We’re interested in those kids as well. The other divisions are also important, and parents need to open their minds – and that’s what we’re here for."

To back up the message of football for everyone, Game Plan offers the gamut of coaches to serve as advisors/instructors, from Division I (Hawaii assistant Cal Lee) to I-AA (Weber State head coach Ron McBride) to Division III (Linfield associate head coach Doug Hire).

The constant, however, is that a player needs grades to get there.

On the first day of the camp, parents are required to accompany their child for a series of workshops designed to educate the adults in the kind of sustained effort in the classroom required to make it as a college football player. When to take the SAT, how to manage time, and other important themes that can get overlooked are discussed.

Lee knows parental involvement is the key. Otherwise, he said, the academic message goes "here and here" as he pointed to both ears.

That’s not to say the message is totally lost on the players, but …

"It hits them. You see a good movie, ‘Ho, I’m inspired,’ " Lee said. "But after that, you go out the door. … For the parents, they can’t talk football, but they can say, ‘Hey, how’s your grades?’ "

Connor Yap, an incoming sophomore at Kamehameha-Maui, made the trip over with his father, Rodney. A quarterback who will be on the varsity in the fall, Connor hopes to be a Division I-ready player by college.

"Up until Monday, I didn’t know too much about Division III and NAIA colleges and stuff," Yap said. "But it opened my mind so much.

"It wouldn’t be a bad thing for me to go to a Division II college, Division III college. I feel I can get the same education, still study, still learn. Football isn’t always going to be there. I’ll have the education to get a good job after football."

"Be prepared, that’s the whole idea," Rodney Yap said, nodding.

About 225 kids, as young as seventh graders, attended Game Plan this year.

Hire, the Linfield (Ore.) assistant coach, wanted to let kids know that D-III is a legitimate option if they maintain their grades. He pointed out that Linfield’s current roster has a strong continent of 22 players from Hawaii.

"If you have options, you get to choose where you want to go to school, and you’ll feel good about your decision," Hire, a Pearl City graduate, said.

Division I-ready prospects find something to get out of their time, too.

Former Word of Life defensive end Juda Parker, who will attend Saint Louis for his senior year, was one of the three still on his feet in the D-I prototype drill. He’s kept his GPA in the 3.3 to 3.5 range.

"There’s always room for improvement to learn, to gain something," Parker said. "If you keep going through something repeatedly, you’ll always find out something new to learn."


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