Providing a Great Opportunity
Torrential downpours in Hartford over the weekend didn't dampen the spirits of the hundreds of teenagers, coaches and Jets players taking part in the one-day Football Fundamentals Clinic at Bulkeley High School.
New York Head Coach Eric Mangini and Patriot defensive back Tebucky Jones hosted the fifth annual camp, with proceeds benefiting the Carmine and Frank Mangini Foundation. More than 700 campers from the Hartford area and surrounding Northeastern states made the trek despite ominous skies. The camp's fee was listed at $45, which may be considered more of a donation due to the fact that no camper who cannot afford the cost is turned away.
The coaching staff consisted of both Jets and Patriots coaches, local collegiate coaches, as well as the Jets rookie class and a handful of veterans, including Pete Kendall, Chad Pennington and Erik Coleman. At a young age, Mangini learned the importance of giving from both his father and uncle. He told himself that he would also help if he was ever in a position to do so.
"Going to Bulkeley there were a lot of great kids that I went to school with that just didn't have enough good opportunities," explained Mangini. "When they were forced to make decisions, there were a lot of bad opportunities and very few good opportunities and they often went the wrong way. I just want to give those good kids a good opportunity to make good decisions."
Of the many enthusiastic coaches and volunteers, the one station that clearly stuck out the most was led by Jets assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox, who is now a familiar face at Bulkeley after years of attending the camp since its inauguration.
Whether by way of his echoing chants or his ability to transform the young athletes into mud-caked creatures with his monkey rolls drill, Coach Cox created a stir.
"I come from the inner-city myself, much like this where you may not have a lot of finances, so it's good to come and give back," said Cox, who himself was lathered from head-to-toe in mud. "Basically you teach these kids fundamentals about football but also discipline and fundamentals on life. We try to make them understand that if you want to play football and if it's something that you love, then you need to do the right thing in the classrooms and off the fields to carry it on. Plus I love throwing kids in the mud!"
Defensive Backs coach Corwin Brown, also a returning volunteer, anticipates this day each summer. To him, everyone leaves the field with a little something of their own, including himself.
"I have a blast every year, it's probably the highlight of my summer. Every time I get a chance to work with kids, I'm game. I have always felt that way and I will continue to do this and everything like this. I look forward to it every year," said Brown. "There's nothing like this; they get a chance to be around professional and collegiate coaches and professional players, it's a tremendous thing to have. The more exposure that these kids get, the more support they have, and that's what it comes down to at the end of the day, helping out the kids."