Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Academics Emphasized @ All-Poly Football Camp

It's been nearly a decade in operation for Alema Te'o and the All-Poly football camp and the event has become one of the premier annual showcases of talent and athlete enrichment experiences in the country.

The full-contact camp features instruction from many top college coaches and gets started this year on June 17 at Bountiful High School near Salt Lake City. It started primarily as a lineman camp and featured prospects of Polynesian ethnicity (it's never been limited to that, though), but now includes all positions and a variety of nationalities.

The camp also features mandatory sessions on academics and life skills that are a big emphasis.

"The most key component of our camp is to take kids and show them that football is a brighter path to provide a better life," Te'o, the camp director, said. "We are a one-stop shop. Three days in June you get the chance to show what you can do for college coaches and you also get the academics and life-coaching that you need."

Current and former NFL players also participate in the camp. Last year, Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens and former Utah Ute Tavo Tupola worked with and addressed the players at the camp.

The competition both on and off the field can get intense. Players are required to attend an ACT test prep course before being allowed to participate in the day's events (the only exceptions are some players who may be coming from other camps, but there is little room for negotiation according to Te'o). There also are sessions on life skills, the NCAA Clearinghouse, and reading test prep.

"You have to earn it at our camp," Te'o said. "You have to show college coaches you can compete. There are no all-stars here. Those kids that come in here highly-rated get on the chopping block real quick because the other kids want to go out and compete with you."

Several Mountain West Conference head coaches worked the camp last year and are expected back this year with members of their staff. Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Bronco Mendenhall (BYU), Chris Peterson (Boise State), Mike Sanford (UNLV) and Brent Guy (Utah State) were among the coaches who participated last year.

Coaches from New Mexico State, Idaho, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Texas A&M, Oregon State, Arizona, Weber State, Southern Utah, and several Division II schools and junior colleges worked the camps last year. Te'o expects most to be back this year and says coaches from Rutgers, Duke and Oregon could also be at the camp, along with others.

And while it's of value for the college coaches to get an up-close look at potential recruits, it's not just a recruiting function.

Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake has been working the camp since its inception.

"All-Poly is not about recruiting, it's about making these kids' lives better and teaching them the right way and wrong way," Sitake said. "Everybody gets so sick of the recruiting stuff. You just forget about making sales pitches and form good relationships with the players. I have great relationships with many of the players I have worked with at All-Poly who signed with other schools."

Te'o estimates that 90 percent of all the players who attend an All-Poly Camp during their high school career end up signing a college scholarship somewhere. Of the 90 seniors at the camp last year, more than 50 signed with colleges ranging from JUCOs to BCS conference programs.

"Our goal is to bring out the best in a lot of kids," Te'o said. "Some of these kids are not even on anybody's board. We may help them get there."

Class of 2010 Under Armour All-American Bronson Kaufusi (Provo, Utah./Timpview) attended an All-Poly Camp during his freshman season and his father, BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi, works the camp every year.

"The coaching that you get out there is great," Bronson said. "There are also a lot of good players. It's kind of an eye-opener when you get out there and get that level of coaching."

The full-contact aspect of the camp also is unique.

"It's hard to teach tackling fundamentals without being in pads," Sitake said. "So many kids do it the wrong way and we can teach them the right way when we are out there in pads."

The event also is expanding. Last year, the first All-Poly Camp was held in American Samoa and 240 players attended. This year, Hawaii will play host to a session.

"Every year there were 30-40 kids from American Samoa that would make the trip to Salt Lake City for the All-Poly Camp. It is $1,200 for a roundtrip ticket to Hawaii from American Samoa. Then it's another $600 for a roundtrip ticket from Hawaii to the Mainland, so these kids were saving up $2,500, almost $3,000 bucks to come here."

Te'o added that football means a lot to Americans of Polynesian decent and people of the Pacific Islands. Though All-Poly is open to everyone, the majority of the players still are Pacific Islanders.

"Football seems to fit our kids," he said.

Te'o and his staff limit the All-Poly camps to 275-325 players. He said that he wants to keep the number manageable so that the players get the instruction and attention they need.

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