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Academics take center stage on opening day of 2014 All-Poly Camp

Published: Thursday, June 19 2014 11:00 p.m. MDT

Players run drills during the All Poly high school football camp at Ellison Park, Thursday, June 19, 2014.  (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) Players run drills during the All Poly high school football camp at Ellison Park, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

CLEARFIELD — The annual All-Poly Camp kicked off early Thursday morning with the usual accompaniment of top local prep talent and out-of-state talent in attendance, raring to hone their skills and catch the notice of the attending college coaches.

Before any shoulder pads were strapped on, however, all attendees took part in what camp administrators feel is the most important aspect of the camp — academics.

The importance of academics doesn’t receive passing mention or even an hour of indoctrination. As the camp schedule stated plainly, the All-Poly Camp held not one or two hours of classroom instruction — it held three full hours followed by a half-hour general session.

“Academics is no joke — it’s the single most important thing we do here at this camp,” said camp academic advisor, Ti Kinikini, who also works for the University of Utah. “What comes first in the term ‘student-athlete’? It’s not ‘athlete.’ It’s ‘student,’ and there’s a reason for that. It starts with being a student and it’s why we start this great camp with learning how to be a good student.”

Players are assigned to teams during the All Poly high school football camp at Ellison Park, Thursday, June 19, 2014.  (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) Players are assigned to teams during the All Poly high school football camp at Ellison Park, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

The 3 1/2 hours of academic instruction involved workshops on how to qualify for college scholarship and grants, how to develop better study habits, and finally how to reach NCAA compliance requirements for all collegiate divisions.

Speaking at each workshop were college advisors from across the country, giving each attendee some of the best advice possible.

Following all of the instruction, Kinikini patiently answered any further questions students and parents had beyond the intense academic instruction.

“We want each kid who attends here today to improve most as students and then as football players,” Kinikini said. “We take what we do here very serious and I know most of the parents, and hopefully most of the high school students, do as well.”

Players check in for the All Poly high school football camp at Ellison Park, Thursday, June 19, 2014.  (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) Players check in for the All Poly high school football camp at Ellison Park, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

Following the three one-hour workshops, all attendees met in the Clearfield gym to listen to some general instruction of what the All-Poly Camp is all about.

“What this camp is about is helping students understand that football can become a vehicle in achieving goals,” Kinikini said. “The NFL isn’t going to be there for most of these kids — very few of these kids — and that’s just the fact. We hope many of the kids here will earn athletic scholarships, but even those who don’t can learn important concepts involved with football such as sacrifice, teamwork and discipline.”

TOP LOCAL TALENT WELL-REPRESENTED: Following the academic instruction, the All-Poly Camp broke for four hours while Nike took over to administer a SPARQ combine. SPARQ is simply a measurement of all athletic traits involved with being a top football player — from speed and agility to strength and balance.

A player high fives a teammate during the All Poly high school football camp at Ellison Park, Thursday, June 19, 2014.  (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) A player high fives a teammate during the All Poly high school football camp at Ellison Park, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

Most of Utah’s top prospects were in attendance, including Herriman offensive lineman Andre James, who raised his SPARQ overall score from 90 to 95.82, which was second among attending linemen.

Unlike most attendees, James isn’t looking to field more offers. He already has enough and recently trimmed his consideration list to Utah, Oregon, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and UCLA.

“I just want to improve and I’m constantly striving to get better and this was a great opportunity to see if I am improving, which I am,” James said. “We have great talent here in Utah and I just want to keep improving, much like everyone else.”

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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