It's time to hustle It's time to hustle


Published: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 6:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 6:56 p.m.

Hundreds of boys hustled to the commands of former University of Florida football and current NFL players in 90-degree heat at a free non-contact football camp put on by an NFL player who loves giving back to the community that supported him during his days playing Pop Warner, high school and college football in the area.

Approximately 300 boys ages 8 to 17 participated in the 3rd annual Mike Peterson Bring It Youth Football Camp held last Saturday at Citizens Field.

Peterson was raised in the city of Alachua, where he starred on the Santa Fe High School football team before receiving a scholarship to become a Gator. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 1999 draft.

He played for the Colts for several years, starting at middle linebacker most of his time there, before playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he also started at middle linebacker. As he gets ready to enter his second year as the starting middle linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, Peterson said nothing compares to what he experiences at his camps.

"Man, just to see the kids come out. ... Just to see their eyes light up and the sparkle in their eyes when I am coaching them is bigger than any type of touchdown or interception I ever had," said Peterson as he took a break from taking pictures with groups of campers in between drills.

Campers received instructions from former Gators, such as Gerard Warren, currently of the New England Patriots; Eugene McCaslin, who lives in Tampa; Travis McGriff, an assistant football coach at Gainesville High School, and others, as well as Peterson's younger brother, Adrian Peterson, who currently is an unrestricted free agent after playing for the Chicago Bears from 2002-2009.

Campers participated in agility drills during the early part of the camp before graduating to technique and seven-on-seven passing drills later. The four-hour plus camp ended with the "fastest-man-at-camp" 40-yard dash foot race won by Octavious Simmons, a running back with the Gainesville Gladiators youth football team.

Octavious, 14, said he had a good time at the camp.

"I just liked hanging out with my friends and seeing the NFL players coming to give back to the community," said Octavious, who attended Howard Bishop Middle School last school year.

Jahmar Webb, a 17-year-old senior at Eastside High School, agreed with Octavious. "This was exciting, and it taught me about the importance of giving back to the community," Jahmar said. "I also liked that the coaches really seemed to care a lot about us."

Peterson said not only does he host camps - he held one in Atlanta in early June as well as a celebrity bowling tournament there - he said he helps other NFL players when they run their camps. "I don't do this for the limelight or the media. I do this for the kids," Peterson said.

The camp might have been free, but it was anything but easy. Just like the other coaches, McCaslin, who drove up from Tampa to help with the camp, was on hand putting campers though intense drills. He was hollering instructions during the cone shuttle drill, where campers had to change directions while sprinting through cones placed five yards apart.

"Don't stop, just bring it!" he shouted to the campers. "Everybody has got to go full speed."

At one point later in the camp, McCaslin was amazed to see that a camper wasn't running to the next drill.

"I refuse to believe you are walking," McCaslin said. "I just refuse to believe that. You can't walk. You have to jog out here."

McCaslin said he has traveled from Tampa to be involved with all three of the Peterson camps in Gainesville.

"It just feels good to give back to the community because we all was in this situation and we all needed help before," McCaslin said. "We all had people looking out for us, teaching us the ropes, and it just feels good to be able to do this and give back to the community."

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