May 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Lions players stress fundamentals, education at Stephen Tulloch youth camp

Dearborn Stephen Tulloch and other Lions players preached the importance of education at the middle linebacker's second annual youth camp at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

About 200 children between ages 9 and 13 from Michigan, Ohio and Canada attended the free camp, and the boys and girls learned several fundamental football drills over the three-hour session.

"In order to be a professional football player, you have to make good grades, correct?" Tulloch told the kids at the end of camp. "Never forget football is one aspect of life. Grades are more important."

Free-agent safety James Ihedigbo and second-year linebacker Brandon Hepburn joined Tulloch in leading drills during the camp, and both shared words of wisdom with the group. Second-year punter Sam Martin and tight end Joseph Fauria arrived at the end of the camp to sign autographs.

"The effort that you put out here on the field, having fun, you have to have that same type of intensity in your classroom," said Ihedigbo, who spent the past two seasons with the Ravens. "Whether it's with your teachers, listening to what they say, understanding homework assignments, putting that extra effort in so you can be the best student in the classroom, and then you'll be the best football player on the field. You can't have one without the other, and you definitely can't play football unless you're doing the stuff you have to do in the classroom."

Hepburn, a biochemistry major at Florida A&M, asked the children if they liked math or science before passing along advice.

"You guys need to do your homework every night, pay attention in class, ask questions," said Hepburn, a 2013 seventh-round pick. "These are the things that are going to take you to where you want to be in life, whatever that is."

After the children went through various drills in small groups, they took turns playing offense and defense as the players and volunteer coaches threw passes.

Freeman Fenny, 11, from Southfield attended the camp with his cousins and plans to brag about catching a touchdown from Tulloch. Fenny's cousin, 12-year-old DaJuan Beaty, said the camp "was awesome."

Carlos Griffin, 41, from Southfield brought his 6-year-old son Benjamin to the camp to gauge his interest in football.

"It's good to have the actual professionals come out here and interact with the kids and just show them that there are other things out here to do other than sitting in the house playing video games," Griffin said. "It gets them with other kids and shows them teamwork at an early age."

Tulloch is hosting a charity softball game next Saturday in which his team will face Lions center Dominic Raiola's team at Ford Woods Park in Dearborn. He is also hosting another free football camp in his hometown of Miami later this summer.

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Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch works with kids during his second annual youth camp at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center on Saturday in Dearborn. / John M. Galloway / Special to Detroit News