Program helps kids develop on, off field

Focus is on student-athlete

NORTH AUGUSTA --- Ernesto Wynn's footwork and hand placement might be better, but these three days were about more than just becoming an improved football player.


The Glenn Hills rising senior was one of about 150 football players from the North Augusta and Glenn Hills football teams to participate in the NFL High School Player Development program's training program at North Augusta High School. The event was sponsored by the National Guard and stresses the importance of helping student-athletes both in the classroom and on the field.

"It's being a student-athlete instead of just a student," Wynn said.

The three-day program started on Tuesday and concluded Thursday night, with a good portion of Tuesday taking place in the auditorium as players learned about character development, life skills, concussions and the value of school.

On the field, the program allowed both teams to get three extra days of practice to run drills and even get in some scrimmages -- all under high school rules and regulations.

"This is wonderful," said site manager Patricia White-Harris, who is proud of the program's education emphasis.

Besides getting jerseys and other football-related materials, each player also got a 2011-12 HSPD Player Planner, which helps kids find success in high school and college as a student-athlete. The planner includes calendars, information about achieving NCAA eligibility and also specific educational pages, such as one with the periodic table.

North Augusta took part in the program in 2010, and football coach Dan Pippin said the planners definitely helped. He said players had to get their teachers to sign the planner as a way to make sure the student paid attention and did the work in class.

The program paid off -- only one member of the football team needed summer school.

This year, Yellow Jacket and Spartan coaches led the drills, though Ryan Bowers, of ATHELITE, and former North Augusta player Anthony Young, who played football for Wake Forest, were among some of the other helpers.

North Augusta offensive tackle Parker Collins said the three days are key as a football player, because they give the student-athletes three practice days they wouldn't normally get.

That aspect, along with the focus on developing kids in the classroom and in the community, is what made the past three days so special.

"I hope the program stays around for years to come," said Sgt. Chip Simmons, the National Guard's recruiter in the area. "Everybody in the area should want to be a part of this."