Top coaches, prospects make Sound Mind Sound Body ‘awesome’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Donovan Peoples-Jones

With nearly 30 head coaches, including some of the biggest names in college football, and 83 different schools represented, the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy at Wayne State on Friday is incomparable.

Sound Mind Sound Body, in its 12th year in Detroit – it has expanded this year to Houston, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Tampa and Los Angeles – is not a satellite camp or an institutional camp, but an academy setting that blends on-field football training with off-field life-lesson development like etiquette in dining room settings and more serious discussions about drugs, alcohol and relationships.

Former Wolverine and NFL linebacker Larry Foote will kick off the speaking sessions on Friday that also will included speeches from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, among others.

Also representing the Big Ten are head coaches Tracy Claeys of Minnesota, Purdue’s Darrell Hazell, Mike Riley of Nebraska and Indiana’s Kevin Wilson.  The camp will have coaching representatives from 11 of the 14 Big Ten schools.

And for the first time in SMSB-Detroit history, Alabama is sending coaches. Five, including former MSU coach Bobby Williams, will be here. LSU coach Les Miles originally had committed to working all the SMSB academies but conflicts have not allowed his participation.

There will be more than 240 coaches, including full staffs from 18 programs, here.

“It says something about how valuable Detroit is, how much we care about the talent exposure and development of our kids,” said Rod Oden, East English Village coach and SMSB camp director along with Deon Johnson. “Atlanta and Houston had two awesome camps, but nothing compares to Detroit in size and talent and instruction, and our list of speakers is phenomenal. Everything about this is awesome.

“And it also says something about the coaches, that they’re willing to take direction from high school guys.”

Jim Harbaugh

Oden laughed, saying it amuses him when he’s running the pre-camp coaches meeting and he’s telling some of these larger-than-life coaches what is being asked of them.

“And they’re all paying attention to me, the little guy,” he said, laughing. “But they jump right in and provide quality instruction.”

There will be an overnight middle school camp for seventh and eighth graders, and Oden said 150 will attend. Also new to SMSB is Kohl’s Kicking being part of the day with 70 of the top kickers from around the country.

Overall, the camp was capped at just more than 700, down from the SMSB-record 1,200 young athletes who attended the academy at Macomb Dakota last summer.

“We decided that was a huge undertaking and we cut the numbers down some,” said Oden, who has coordinated all the travel and transportation for the visiting coaches.

The SMSB theme will be, “What does it take to make it?” and this will entail Foote discussing how to make it to the NFL and the college coaches addressing what it takes to make it to a college program and succeed at that level.

Mark Dantonio

A number of SMSB alums also will work as volunteers, including Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis, Khalid Hill and Shane Morris, Michigan State’s Malik McDowell and Donnie Corley, and Ohio State’s Mike Weber and Iowa’s Desmond King. All of them were extremely vocal on social media about the positives of SMSB in early April when the NCAA Council voted to ban camps. Three weeks later, the vote was overturned.

A number of multi-year campers, like top receiver prospect Donovan Peoples-Jones of Detroit Cass Tech, who has attended SMSB since eighth grade, will participate again.

“We have 100 kids who are veterans,” Oden said, “and some kids, this is their fourth or fifth one. But this is for those guys that don’t have the star rating. This is for coaches to find the diamond in the rough.”

Oden is delighted SMSB has “come full circle” and returned to its roots at Wayne State.

He has bigger hopes for next year’s SMSB and believes all the coaches who experience the academy on Friday will make this a destination year after year.

“Our goal by next year, I want to have the coaches checking with us before they create their own camp schedules,” Oden said. “I think we’re getting to that point.”