North Fort Myers High School hosts USF football camp
Hundreds of high school football players filled the fields at North Fort Myers High School on Thursday as the University of South Florida and the school hosted the annual Willie Taggart football camp.
More than 300 players from throughout Southwest Florida, from as far out as Tampa and Miami and Immokalee, gathered on a cool, overcast morning for three hours of drills while learning the fine points of the game from USF coaches.
Taggart, USF head coach, was impressed by the effort put out by some of the best players in the region.
“We saw a lot of competitors out there, guys who love football,” Taggart said. “We had the opportunity to coach them up a little bit. We got 300 guys to come out and play. There’s great football down here.”
Taggart said the best thing about these camps, which he holds throughout the state, is that it allows them to come to the kids, find players who can play at the next level, and gives the coach the chance to build camaraderie while on the road.
“This gives the kids a chance to get noticed. They rise to the occasion in competition. About 80 percent of the kids we got came through the camp,” Taggart said.
More than 200 pre-registered, with another 100 or so coming in that morning. After stretching, the players broke into groups, where USF coaches were stationed for agility drills.
Afterward, the players were broken into smaller groups for individual position drills, with linemen going to the practice field while skill position players worked on Moody Field.
Eventually, the receivers, quarterbacks and defensive backs came together for coverage drills, as did the linebackers and running backs, to give them a chance to compete.
The camp ended with more competition as the campers sprinted to see who was fastest in their individual positions, with the winners earning USF sun visors.
For North head coach Earnest Graham, it was great to see one of his contemporaries, who graduated from Manatee High School in 1994, when Graham was a freshman at Mariner, return to the area to run the camp where he coaches.
“South Florida is the closest thing we have to a home school and they take players from this area all the time,” Graham said. “I’m glad they came down and threw a fantastic event for the kids.”
The camp was not optional for Graham’s players. Blake McPherson, a receiver and running back at North, said the camp was invaluable in teaching him the skills.
“They did a lot of teaching, which we don’t do very much because we learn the fundamentals. But I did really well in one-on-ones,” McPherson said. “I need more work on catching the ball, but I did real well on my jab step, faking people out.”
Lucious Stamley, a running back and outside linebacker who practiced as an offensive player, was the opposite of McPherson, and said the camp will hopefully give the Red Knights an edge.
“I did well with my routes but need to work on cutting,” Stamley said. “The coaches taught us a lot on the mental stuff. Everyone is sleeping on us. But we’ll wake people up.”