I always cringe when I have to set my alarm clock to get me up early on a Saturday morning.
More often than not, it’s for one of my kids activities...and typically, it’s because my son’s hockey team ended up with the dreaded 7 am game at the local muni rink. But this is July... why the heck am I setting the alarm clock for 6:15?
This weekend, I was taking my son to Ben Stille and JoJo Domann’s Youth Football Camp in Lincoln. It was one of those things I took a chance on a couple of weeks ago when Stille announced it. We had the morning free, and it sounded kind of interesting to me and pretty cool to my 12-year old son. So we signed up, and headed to Lincoln at a time I’m usually still in bed on a Saturday morning.
I didn’t know what to expect, but when we arrived, Stille and Domann were already talking to a guestimated 150 or so boys and girls aged 7 through 14. Frankly, I thought that was a decent sized crowd, considering it had only been announced a couple of weeks ago. But even more impressive was the enthusiasm of the kids and the program that Stille and Domann had put together. Turns out that Domann’s parents have operated a similar camp in Colorado Springs for years, which provided a template for the Lincoln event.
What made this event really click was the support of about a dozen of Stille and Domann’s teammates. Southern Cal transfer I-back Markese Stepp leading running back drills (asking kids who fumbled to drop and do five pushups), while defensive lineman Casey Rogers helped run tackling drills. To the kids, it didn’t matter how many stars the players might have had...they were just having a blast hanging out with some Husker football players.
I didn’t know what to expect Saturday, so I grabbed my laptop and got back to work on my preseason opponent previews. (First game is six weeks away, and I’m not even done with the nonconference games? Yikes, I’m behind...) But I didn’t get much done, because the dad in me took over and just wanted to watch the kids having fun. I think the last thing I wrote was right before Domann and my son had a little conversation on the field after working with him on his throwing motion. (Hail Varsity’s Erin Sorensen got a better photo than I did from the sideline.)
Really nice morning for the Stille & Domann Youth Football Camp.— Erin Sorensen (@erinsorensen) July 17, 2021
With help of teammates, friends and family, @b_stille_ and @TheDomannator are sending a lot of campers home tired (and happy!). It was fun to watch the players coach today. You can tell how much fun they had too. pic.twitter.com/7aVVm27Vi3
At the end, Stille and Domann held a touchdown dance contest with five of the younger kids, with Ben Stille adding his own version of “the Worm” (featured in this KETV-channel 7 report on the camp). Domann concluded the event by leading the kids in the Husker prayer, which may have meant more to the parents watching.
All told, it was a great morning for 150 or so families, as well as the Husker players who spent their time helping out. I dare say that the kids there had more fun than the ones who will show up for the official Fan Day in two weeks because there was more than just simply getting an autograph. And it all became possible because of the NCAA’s new name, image and likeness (NIL) rules. Prior the new rules, Stille and Domann couldn’t engage sponsors help underwrite the event and certainly couldn’t accept registration fees to rent out the sports fields where the event was held. Now it’s possible, and Nebraska athletics became a winner of this as well, even if the Big Red name and logo wasn’t anywhere officially part of the event. Just the fact that you had 150 kids yelling out “Huskers!” and “Blackshirts!” after each set of drills gives a burst of excitement and momentum for the program at a time it needs it the most.