It was quite the unusual scene at the new George Welsh Indoor Practice Facility. Friday night, hundreds of women in matching orange tees, myself included, swarmed the field to hear from the coaches, run drills, and learn the basics from the top folks associated with Virginia Football.
The evening opened up at the McCue Center, allowing the participants to get the forbidden look into the men's locker room and interact with the coaches before the on-field portion commenced. A line wrapped around the entire room, through the rich mahogany lockers (or what appeared and smelled to be rich mahogany), to get a photo and autograph with Coach London.
A couple sets of uniforms were in some of the lockers, which was perfect for hilarious 'look how my little feet fit inside these huge shoes' moments. Tight End Jake McGee's locker was filled with sticky notes wishing him luck and saying how much they loved him, most of which I can only assume came from the group of ladies wearing tees with '83' on the front and 'McGee' on the back. My guess is that they were family, but the possibility remains that they were enthusiastic fans. Either way, I'm totally on board with it. In fact, a little jealous I did not think of it first.
As it neared seven o'clock, the cats were herded into the indoor facility, which is absolutely breathtaking. Nothing could get you more amped up to play some football than a huge image of Chris Long with the words "Strong body, strong mind" surrounding him.
Coach London came out to raucous applause and welcomed the campers, stating it is his favorite camp of the summer. He wasted no time reiterating his team rules of, "Go to class. Show class and treat people with dignity and respect." There was no question he was directly addressing the recent dismissal of QB Phillip Sims when he continued, saying it was not his responsibility to go to class for players and not his job to turn in their work.
The crowd loved it, and I was impressed with the apparent understanding of the Sims reference. London is a hell of a motivator, and I can absolutely see why his recruiting abilities are a thing of lore. After a short five to six minute speech, I was ready to throw down.
After introducing the coaches, the participants were split up into four groups to receive information on play calling, offensive communication, and defensive schemes. I consider myself pretty football savvy, but the information we received from Coaches Hagans, Brown, and Lewis was fascinating.
From there, we got a presentation from ACC official Tom Pace on the positioning and responsibilities of each of the referees, with some solid cajoling going back and forth between Mr. Pace and Coach London. If nothing else, we all know who to blame if we get any suspect calls this season.
Coach Evan Marcus got us stretched out and ready for drills with a variety of exercises including trunk twists, moving toe touches, lunges, and jumping jacks. Campers were split into their pre-determined groups of eight and sent to skill specific drills, each granted seven minutes and led by two coaches or graduate assistants.
We started with Coach Chip West and covered basic cornerback skills, including stance, drive, and backwards running. Backwards running. Seems easy, but not what I would choose as an activity when I am trying to keep from looking like an idiot in front of an NCAA coach. Definitely gives you a sense of respect for what Demetrious Nicholson and the cornerback crew does on a daily basis, keeping up with some of the fastest on the field.
After that, glorious group eight moved to Coach Fairchild and learned the basic five step drop and pass for the quarterback. For the number of women there, the organizers did a phenomenal job of having enough lines/balls/coaches to keep everything moving fluidly. Each station went over each skill from the most basic point before adding to it and asking us to execute.
Safeties Coach Anthony Pointdexter covered the running back hand off and proper carry technique, and very eloquently explained the importance of protecting the ball. "You fumble, we are gonna fire yo' ass. I have kids to feed." Laughs ensued, but the point was made.
Marques 'Biscuit' Hagans provided my first big 'oh man, that was so cool' moment as he went over wide receiver routes and hit us with passes as we ran an out play. I will brag and say I made both my catches, each at about 15 to 20 yards. No big deal.
Coach Scott Wachenheim and Coach O'Brien provided us with offensive line drills, which are very unsexy but very necessary. I must say, three point stance is NOT comfortable, and I am not surprised by the amount of knee braces worn by those guys.
Punting was next, which was my second 'oh man, that was so cool' moment. Coach London, who wandered throughout the drills all evening, caught glimpse of one of my longer, higher punts, leading to some praise and a joke about signing me. I'm waiting for my information in the mail any day now.
Coach Vincent 'The Undertaker' Brown and Graduate Assistant Jonathan Lewis ran a couple fun defensive line drills which including some tackling dummies and hoop runs simulating sacking the quarterback. Coach Brown is an intimidating man, but that is to be expected from someone dubbed 'The Undertaker' while playing in the NFL.
Last, but not least, was Coach Tenuta and Grad Assistant Mike Saint Germain and linebacker skills. Coach Tenuta hands down wins best motivational voice award, and it is neat to put into practice the movements you see your favorite players make on the field.
I know, it all sounds very simple and most of it was. I know you're probably thinking, "Oh, big deal, you ran around and caught some balls. Who hasn't." BUT organized drills led by high quality coaches is something we weren't exposed to growing up.
All in all, it was a phenomenal experience and I could not be more impressed with the caliber of personnel and facilities associated with the University of Virginia football program. Coach London stayed around after the conclusion until everyone who wanted pictures and/or autographs got their wish. He photo and twitter documented the entire evening, illustrating his dedication and enthusiasm about the event.
I highly recommend this experience for any female UVA fan of all ages and all skill levels. My mother attended with me, and she not only rocked it, but had a blast at the same time. Thank you Coach London and UVA football. I can't wait to see you guys in the fall.