Players are excited to show off their wares at camp

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News

Detroit — With the spotlight surrounding big-name coaches and satellite camps, the focus can sometimes shift away from the players who benefit from the lessons taught, the exposure and the competition of a setting that allows them to go up against the best of the best.

Football camps are a taste of what life will be like on the gridiron at the next level, and that experience is something the players at the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy Friday afternoon valued as they were able to showcase their skills for a number of college football coaches in the 12th year of the camp.

Players from all over Michigan and beyond flocked to Detroit, as they were able to hear from Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, among other coaches. And after taking in their words during morning lectures, the nearly 600 student-athletes were able to take the field and show their stuff.

“This camp has given me a lot of exposure,”said Cass Tech defensive back Jaylen Kelly-Powell, who is in his third year at SMSB.

“It’s hard to get recognized. Today we were able to just come out here and compete. The coaches get to come out here and get a look at us, and that’s a good thing.”

Kelly-Powell currently holds offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

After an initial ban on camps stole headlines in early April, the future of SMSB and the kids from middle school through high school who come here became murky.

Luckily for them, the ban lasted less than three weeks and was lifted by the NCAA Board of Directors.

“I’ve been coming here since I was in the sixth grade,” Warren De La Salle defensive back Allen Stritzinger said. “It’s not only football. It’s a life lesson and I’ve gotten more out of that than I did on the field today. I’m just glad they came back and gave me another opportunity to compete.”

Highly recruited Detroit King defensive back Ambry Thomas took the news of the camps short-lived demise especially hard.

“It hurt my heart,” Thomas said. “But when they put it back on, I was too excited.”

The theme among the players was that this wasn’t your typical camp. The young men wanted to be here and were more than happy to put on a show and rub elbows with college football’s elite.

There was also the thrill of competition that a lot of the players hadn’t felt on a football field since last fall.

“It was the first camp since I’ve been involved in track all spring,” Stritzinger said.

“It was good to be back out on the field.”

That competition also sparked the bravado of some of the players who performed well, like King’s four-star defensive back.

“I had fun competing,” Thomas said.

“To me, if there were guys that felt like they were good, then they were going to have to show me they were good to earn my respect. A few people did, but others were just all talk.”

Nobody’s future was decided during camp, but the chance to compete against the best while the best were watching and taking notes was something that the kids enjoyed and learned a lot from.

For now, those opportunities are still theirs to seize.

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.