Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Women's Football 101 Clinic a hit

UConn assistant coaches Don Patterson and Mike Foley speak to the mothers 
of Bobby Puyol and Ellis Marder before Women's Football 101 Clinic

I've been inside the Burton Family Football Complex many times over the last few years but never experienced a night like tonight with the inaugural Women's Football 101 Clinic.

Sean Marinan, Deshon Foxx, Jhavon Williams and Graham Stewart
talk to a group taking part in the Women's Football 101 Clinic at UConn
The appearance of UConn President Susan Herbst drew much of the pre-event publicity but there were other coaches, administrators, moms of current UConn players as well as others from both inside and outside the UConn community."It is going to be a fun night, a way to get everybody involved and meet all of the coaching staff," said Peggy (Walsh) Myers, mother of UConn redshirt freshman tight end Tommy Myers and a star on Geno Auriemma's first women's basketball team at UConn. "There are moms here, alumni, coaches, I think it is a great thing.

"I think it is awesome, I think it is a really good idea to get women involved in the sport and have a good time with all of this."

So what does her son think of all of this?

"He doesn't want me to embarrass him," Meyers said. "I was going to wear his jersey but he said just don't embarrass me."

The moms of quarterback Tim Boyle, kicker Bobby Puyol and defensive back Ellis Marder were among the estimated 200 women who took part in the event.

While this was the brainchild of first-year UConn coach Bob Diaco and something he took part in when he was on Brian Kelly's staff at Central Michigan, it was quarterbacks coach Don Patterson who set the tone for the evening when he told the gathered campers "hopefully you will leave here with more knowledge of football than your significant others."

Those who took part went through tackling and blocking drills, attempted field goals, ran through an agility course, threw some passes, spent time in the weight room and in film study rooms.

"It is just another opportunity to expose UConn Husky football to a whole other group and the give back is 'have you ever been in a football meeting?' so here is a great opportunity to actually sit in football meetings and get on the field coaching just like actual players," Diaco said.

As much fun as those who signed up for the clinic were having, the UConn players who volunteered for the event may have been the ones making the biggest commotion.

An ever present smile was on the face of offensive tackle Paul Nwokeji as he was involved in a blocking and tackling drill, quarterback Chandler Whitmer was there throwing passes but perhaps nobody was enjoying themselves more than linebacker Graham Stewart and defensive back Jhavon Williams who were clearly getting into the spirit that Diaco envisioned this night being all about.

"It is so great," Diaco said. "There are administrators here, there is great support from faculty, there is people from student services, there are parents of players, it is a just a great event.

"We capped it at 200 and it sold out really quickly so if everybody enjoys themselves and tells somebody else we go to 400 and if they tell two people 'what a great time, let's go together next year' now you are at 600 people so we would like to keep escalating it."

Getting back to the Myers family, I asked Peggy how her son likes the new coaching staff and she said "he loves it, Tommy is very fired up."

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