Skill position players may get most of the headlines, but football experts know that games are often won or lost in the trenches.
Although linemen may not get much of the glory, but they were the headliners at a recent camp in Bixby.
Nearly 600 participants between 7th and 12th grade recently converged on Spartan Stadium and Lee Snider Field for the annual Eastern Oklahoma Offensive and Defensive Line Camp. Participants endured 100-plus degree heat indexes over two days while learning from some of the top high school coaches in state, as well as mentoring from former college and NFL players.
The idea for the lineman camp was conceived nearly 20 years ago by former Jenks coach Allan Trimble. Two of his assistants at the time, Loren Montgomery and David Alexander, got the camp off the ground and both have enjoyed watching it blossom into a big-time event.
“I think we started back in 2003 when I worked for Coach Trimble,” recalled Montgomery, who has won four straight state titles at Bixby. “He said, ‘We’ve got all these old NFL guys around Tulsa and Oklahoma, why don’t you put together a camp?’ And so we did. Every year it’s taken off and this year is by far the biggest one we’ve had. It’s unbelievable.”
One of the great things about the camp is the mix of young players and older players. Inexperienced players receive as much coaching and attention as those being recruited to play college football.
“There’s a wide variety of skill levels,” stated Choctaw defensive coordinator Brad Clark, who coordinated this year’s event. “We’re really working on player improvement and player development, because at this level, so much of line play is technical on both sides of the ball.”
“We’ve got some senior campers that have been here every single year,” added Clark, a former Bixby assistant who recently returned to Oklahoma after coaching four years in Texas. “It’s really cool in that aspect when they’re not your kids and they’re from the other side of the state and you get to know them and watch them grow and improve. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Along with individual and group instruction, camp participants were also treated to testimonies from some of the coaches. Former University of Oklahoma and NFL lineman J.R. Conrad spoke of his humble beginnings and how he was able to beat the odds and become successful in life.
“I’m going to tell you the secret,” said Conrad to the attentive campers during a break. “This is an old (Bill) Parcell-ism right here. Some codes to live by. Intensity, consistency and patience. If you’ll apply those to your training, to football and to life, over time you’re going to look up and you’re going to get somewhere.”
Campers were reminded that blocking is a fundamental part of football that ultimately determines how good your team is going to be.
“It doesn’t matter if you run the wishbone or if you run the Air Raid,” claimed Alexander, who won a state title at Broken Arrow in 2018. “If you block people or can get to the quarterback, you can be a good football team. That’s my message to every group that comes to me. I don’t care what offense you run. Let’s block people and be good at it.”
From those humble beginnings two decades ago, the Eastern Oklahoma Offensive and Defensive Lineman camp has turned into a must-attend event. This year’s camp even had participants from Kansas and Texas.
“It’s mind boggling,” said Alexander of the camp’s exponential growth. “You couldn’t fathom this; that it would grow to be this big. Never in our wildest dreams that many years ago did we think there would be 500 kids here. We’re just trying to do each kid a great service and teach them a little bit and hope they love being an offensive or defensive lineman.”