Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
LAYTON — Outside of NFL camps, Utah may have been the football epicenter for the past couple of days.
The 15th annual All Poly Camp brought many of the nation’s top prospects and high-profile college coaches to Clearfield High School and Layton’s Ellison Park. An accompanying NFL Play 60 event headed by Luther Elliss and a coaching clinic led by Ron McBride brought several others who appreciate the sport to Davis County.
“If you’re a football guy, this is where you want to be,” said All Poly Camp founder Alema Te’o. “End of story.”
While acknowledging the ongoing NFL camps, Te’o expressed his belief that Utah is where football was getting the most attention last Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We’re real proud of that. I hope people out here are proud of that, too,” he said. “So hopefully we can continue to maintain this level of success.”
Te’o is hopeful that the sport will further elevate in the state — providing resources so kids can get exposed, coaches can get better and the overall picture of building a good football program can be completed.
The plan is working.
Te’o estimates that as many as 40 college football programs were represented at this year’s All Poly Camp. He noted that as many as 100 coaches were on the field with the 400-plus campers at any given time.
“We’ve been real fortunate,” said Te’o, who added that the camp has been blessed with a lot of support from a lot of great people.
This year’s event drew appearances by several prominent head coaches. Attendees included Gary Andersen (Wisconsin), Craig Bohl (Wyoming), Jay Hill (Weber State), Ed Lamb (Southern Utah), Bronco Mendenhall (BYU), Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), Chris Petersen (Washington), Mike Sanford (Indiana State), Steve Sarkisian (USC), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Matt Wells (Utah State) and Kyle Whittingham (Utah).
Hill, a longtime Utah assistant entering his first season at the helm at Weber State, said the number of prospects at the camp has swelled from about 10 the first year to 50 or so now. Having more programs wanting to make evaluations is fueling additional attendees at the three-day event.
“It’s crazy,” Hill said of the level of players and coaches at the camp.
Stoops has taken note. He added a trip to Utah to his usual swing of attending Oklahoma-oriented camps in Norman, Dallas and Houston.
“There’s a lot of great young men here, players and coaches. It’s fun to meet all of them,” Stoops said. “I’ve heard about it for a long time. So I’m just glad to be a part of it this year and hope to be able to come when I’m able to.”
USC’s Sarkisian was also pleased to make an appearance.
“I have a great deal of respect for Alema. He’s done an amazing job. This camp continues to get better and better and better. For me, it’s really more out of respect for Alema and the job that he’s doing for these kids,” he said. “It’s unbelievable exposure all these kids are getting. You look at the number of programs that are here and the opportunity for all these kids to get coached by great coaches and get a number of eyes on them.”
Sarkisian added that “it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Former Utah State head coach and Utah assistant Andersen is also a big believer in the camp. He’s been to all of them — even the past two since becoming the head coach at Wisconsin.
“It’s great to come back and be able to be in this environment,” he said while praising the camp. “I would say as far as the nation goes, if it’s not the best it’s definitely one of the best in the country.”
Andersen noted that Te’o and his staff have kept it from becoming so commercialized.
“It’s still football. The kids are still working. The coaches come here and coach hard,” Andersen said. “Some of the other places, they’ve got people running around and it’s not run for the right reasons. This one’s run for the right reasons and it’s for the kids. That’s important to me.
“I think that’s a big part of why I know a lot of these coaches continually come back is because of the commitment to the kids,” he continued. “It’s not just the recruitable kids, it’s the kids in general. They’re going to walk out of here better football players.”
Andersen also expressed appreciation for the core roots of the camp. This year’s T-shirts were inscribed with the words: “attitude, academics, athletics” on the back.
“I’ve been here since the first camp and I’ve seen just the body of coaches that are teaching and helping these young men get better. You look at all the schools that are represented here. It’s really good,” said Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake. “The fact that Alema Te’o, who is in charge of it, is good enough to just invite everyone and it’s been open to all the programs available that want to come out here and help these young men is a huge compliment to what kind of person he is and how much he cares for these young men.”
Although Te’o tends to shun the spotlight, participating coaches are appreciative of his efforts in founding and maintaining the camp.
Utah State’s Wells noted that things have blossomed because there’s extraordinary talent at the event and talent is where folks go.
“What Alema Te’o has done over the years with this camp is really nothing short of extraordinary from the sponsors to the organization to the college coaches and the exposure that he gives these kids from a college recruiting standpoint,” Wells said. “But also the teaching of fundamentals and toughness, and a lot of the things that aren’t football related that he exposes these kids to at a young age, I think says a lot for him and his coaches.”
Southern Utah offensive coordinator Gary Crowton explained that the All Poly Camp does a good job of organizing drills and allowing coaches to see the players at the same time and help them get better
“I think the biggest thing is it attracts such good athletes from around the country,” Crowton said. “So you’ve got one melting pot area where you’ve got people from all over the country who are coming so coaches can work it and get to meet people and see talent.”
While noting that the players in the camp love running around and hitting somebody, BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi noted that there’s another aspect to it for the coaches.
“Of course, recruiting is a big part of it, but you’re actually here to just really help kids and give back to the community and do some service,” he said. “You’ve got to do it. I’ve got to do my part. I wouldn’t feel good if I don’t do my part.”
On his visit to the All Poly Camp, Stoops said that the Sooners were committed to recruiting in the state of Utah — noting this year’s signing of Granger offensive lineman Kenyon Frison.
“We’re going to continue to recruit out here as hard as we can,” said Stoops, who added that he felt Utah has always been a good place to find players. “I know we feel it’s a great area and there’s a lot of really good players in this area. So we’re going to continue to try and recruit here.”
At Utah State, Wells said the lifeblood of his program is in-state recruiting. He noted that many of the 59 players from the state on the Aggies roster are products of the All Poly Camp — athletes who are getting exposed to more options.
Utah’s Sitake said the base of recruits in the state has really skyrocketed. He gives much of the credit to the coaches.
“You see that these guys have done a great job coaching their young men and so a lot more schools, programs outside of the state of Utah, are starting to recruit here,” Sitake said.
Even so, Sitake thinks that Utah has always been a place that has a lot of talent.
Sarkisian agrees, noting that he’s got a little different perspective because he played his college ball in the state at BYU.
“There’s always been really good players. I think now with the resources in recruiting people are more apt to go to a little bit more of the remote areas, you know, in recruiting. They’re willing to spend the money and the time,” Sarkisian said. “The kids that maybe would always go to BYU, or Utah, or Utah State, are now getting looks from schools outside of the state. I don’t think that is a bad thing. The same can be said for those three schools — their willingness to go out of state to find kids to come here.”