Grosse Pointe Woods — Curtis Blackwell looked on with pride as he watched the Sound Mind Sound Body 7 vs. 7 Detroit Showcase at Liggett High School Thursday evening.
Blackwell, 40, co-founded the Sound Mind Sound Body organization in 2004 and is back at it full-time after not having his contract renewed at Michigan State last summer.
MSU coach Mark Dantonio said he had "philosophical differences" with Blackwell. This occurred in the wake of then-MSU football players Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance being charged with criminal sexual conduct.
“We started Sound Mind Sound Body back in 2004 and we’ve been running camps, and then in the last years we’ve expanded to do more than camps, and so our 7 on 7 is the next phase and this is our second year with it,” Blackwell told The Detroit News. “We were fortunate to partner with the city of Grosse Pointe and University Liggett and they were gracious enough to host us here at this nice facility.
“We were looking to set up an opportunity for all of the top teams to get some good, quality work in so all the top teams get the chance to compete with each other, and all the coaches like the idea. Really, it’s the best of the best, the only one of its kind.”
Yes, it was a quality 7 on 7 event with such state powers as Detroit Cass Tech, Detroit King, Belleville, West Bloomfield, Walled Lake Western, Oak Park, River Rouge and Dearborn Fordson on hand Thursday.
Blackwell believes Sound Mind Sound Body is his calling, to help with the youth in the city of Detroit.
“Everything was pretty good (at Michigan State), I had a good time, but this is my passion, what I love to do, work with young people in the city of Detroit,” Blackwell said. “I’m looking to work with Detroit kids for a long time to come. I found my niche right here in the city of Detroit.
“Everything has prepared me for where I am right now. God has really prepared me and everything has been preordained. So everything that I’ve done prior to right now set me up to be right here. I'm very acclimated to dealing with young people and all the things they encounter and helping young people in the recruiting process, and helping the coaches prepare these students for the next level.”
Blackwell believes the quality of football in Michigan has increased in recent years. Blackwell graduated from Detroit King in 1996 and then was an assistant coach at King from 2004-07.
“I think football in the state of Michigan is on the rise because our kids can get more reps in,” Blackwell said. “People were really not sure with how things were going to go in offseason workouts, camps and 7 on 7s. But what you have seen is that with the more repetitions our kids have gotten, they have gotten better, so that muscle memory has improved and there’s more opportunities for kids to work on their craft. Now, when kids in the south are working on football in the spring, our kids are working in the spring, as well."
Yes, area players have more opportunities to work on their game and former high school players are coming back home to contribute to the effort. Former Detroit Crockett/East English player Desmond King is putting on a camp at East English Saturday morning.
King set a state record for career interceptions (29) before earning Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year honors at Iowa in 2015. He is now playing for the Los Angeles Chargers.
“We’re going to have a free camp for the kids Saturday at East English and we’re going to have over 200 kids there,” King said. “It’s always a good time to give back. I was in the same program, Sound Mind Sound Body, growing up, and I felt like it was a good opportunity for guys to get exposure. So me coming back and giving back to my community, I’m just trying to do the same thing.
“Coach Blackwell was a great mentor to me, someone who took me in and knew that I had the talent and everything, but didn’t have the financial situation and exposure that I needed to get into a university. He helped get me on the platform, got me the opportunity to get that exposure from Division 1 colleges.”