Detroit — They were “drafted” and took tests, with teachers and United States Marines looking over their shoulders and keeping them in line.
For the second straight summer, 100 Detroit-area boys grades 6-8 will participate in the Youth Impact Program at Michigan from July 11-22. They were drafted to two teams Monday night.
Several Michigan players, including Ian Bunting, Jared Wangler and Alex Malzone, spent several hours at Detroit Cass Tech to promote the program Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh began last summer.
Former Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards and Fab Five member Jimmy King were on hand for the draft, as well. Edwards joked he was playing the role of the NFL commissioner during a draft.
The sophomore players and a handful of juniors will work with the U.S. Marines and a number of teachers to teach life skills, language arts, STEM-based curriculum and football to the boys.
“We are hopeful that this program can serve as a platform to connect current and former Wolverines to the Detroit youth,” said Zach Eisendrath, director of the YIP program at Michigan. “YIP provides an opportunity for our student-athletes and the kids in the program to be leaders in their community, grow as people and be apart of something bigger than themselves.”
Former NFL player Riki Ellison founded the program 10 years ago and runs similar camps at Stanford, West Point and Northwestern.
“It’s definitely a class-building kind of thing,” Michigan quarterback Malzone said. “It’s more giving back to the program. There’s four sophomores and four juniors who will be the mentors for it. We’re excited to be with the kids. It’s the second year doing it and it’s a great opportunity. Hanging out with the kids and hopefully our energy and enthusiasm will rub off on them and maybe they’ll want to be a football player in the future.
“The first half of the day is academic based and there are inspirational speakers, and the second half of the day will consist of football. It’s a really good mix. I know the kids will take a lot out of it, but we’ll be taking out of it, too. These kids, they’ve gone through a lot, and I think it’s going to be really inspirational for both sides.”
Wolverines long snapper Andrew Robinson said the learning is shared during the two-week camp.
“The kids learn from us, but we also learn from them,” he said. “We’re with the same kids and the camaraderie that came from this was great.
“The kids really looked up to us. When we went to the Big House, it kind of brings you back to your youth days when you enjoyed playing the game and it’s not about the grind and everything. You grew up playing because you loved it and you wanted to get to this level. There’s nothing negative about this.”
Edwards said the program is important for Michigan.
“All the athletes who have played at Michigan, a lot of them have come from Detroit, so you want something that emphasizes the importance of education and sports,” he said. “Now you’re letting these kids see at a young age, well maybe I need to worry about these two hours of school and etiquette and life choices as opposed to what you already love anyway, football and basketball.”