Local football group scores touchdown

NFL, CFL players headline inaugural weekend clinic

John Browne jbrowne@thetelegram.com
Published on May 4, 2015

Pro football players Akeem Foster (left) of the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos and Luke Willson (right) of the National Football League’s Seattle SeaHawks were in St. John’s this weekend lending their expertise to the first-ever Football Newfoundland and Labrador annual clinic at the Techniplex in Pleasantville. Here, they are shown with Jessica MacDonald, 9, and Ben Basha, 14, in a passing drill. MacDonald was the only girl at the camp.

©JOE GIBBONS/The Telegram

The first annual Football Newfoundland and Labrador clinic has been termed a “success” by president and technical director Brian Hughes.

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“I think it went really well and the people I talked with felt the same,” said Hughes.

The clinic, which was held this past weekend at the Johnson GEO Centre and the Techniplex in Pleasantville, attracted about 70 participants, ranging in age from eight to 17 years.

The clinic included Seattle Seahawks tight end Luke Willson and Edmonton Eskimos wide receiver Akeem Foster along with Canadian collegiate coaches Pat Sheahan and Andrew Collymore.

Hughes said he couldn’t have been more pleased with the way the instructors interacted with the young athletes who are still relatively new to the sport.

He was particularly pleased with Willson and Collymore.

“They were great. The two players loved kids and loved giving back. They seemed to really enjoy helping the kids and understood they don’t have a lot of experience.

“They complimented the young athletes a number of times and a number of ways and you could see that the kids appreciated the encouragement and responded to it,” said Hughes.

He noted that Willson said he definitely wanted to come back next year, and come four or five days earlier to enjoy the place.

Hughes said Sheahan, the head coach of Queens University, was really enthusiastic and kept saying positive things to the kids.

Hughes said there was at least one of the high school boys who showed real potential and he’d like to see him at the university’s summer camp.

The camp ran a very extensive program.

“We had every position on the field covered except quarterback,” explained Hughes adding that, “because of the various ages and sizes of the kids, it was too specific a position to be able to offer it to everyone.”

Other positions such as linebacker, receivers, running back and long snappers were covered. The clinic included five sessions of about 35 minutes each along with some strength and conditioning.

Hughes said a similar camp will be held next year.

“This was our first annual, and we’re looking for one every year.”

Meanwhile, FNL is taking three teams (under-13, U15, U18) and about 60 players to Sydney, N.S. in two weeks for training Saturday and a game for each age group Sunday.

“It’s the first opportunity for the kids to play against someone other than themselves,” Hughes pointed out.

The spring season begins with practice Tuesday night at Rainbow Gully Park in Portugal Cove-St. Philips.