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Calhoun's connection with Valdosta St. brings camp to Gwinnett

Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Chris Madkins of Collins Hill high steps over pads during the Valdosta State Traveling Mini-Camp on Saturday in Suwanee.

Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Chris Madkins of Collins Hill high steps over pads during the Valdosta State Traveling Mini-Camp on Saturday in Suwanee.

SUWANEE — With the start of the regular season still a few weeks away, a large group of football players took advantage of a football camp on Saturday morning.

Conducted by the coaching staff of Valdosta State at Collins Hill High School, the collection of more than 50 players gathered to go through a rigorous set of exercises.

Some players came to work on their individual skills, while others came to get a chance to show their wares to a college coaching staff. Either way, both sides benefited from the two plus hours of workouts.

“I think these one-day camps are great,” Collins Hill assistant coach Sean Calhoun said. “A lot of these kids don’t get a chance to get down (to Valdosta). This is a win-win for everybody.”

Calhoun played a huge part in bringing the camp to Collins Hill as his ties to the Blazers’ program run deep. After playing his prep years at Berkmar, Calhoun continued his collegiate career at Valdosta State.

Calhoun’s enrollment at the south Georgia school helped start a trend in feeding Gwinnett players to the Blazer program.

“Gwinnett football is really good,” Valdosta State head coach David Dean said. “We have a lot of guys on our staff that played here and that combination gives us an advantage.”

Coach Dean and his staff have certainly taken advantage of that Valdosta-Gwinnett relationship as he currently has 22 Gwinnett alums on his roster.

One local who is trying to keep that trend going is Mountain View defensive end Blake Mauldin, who sees the Division II school as an outlet both athletically and academically.

“I’ve been looking at Valdosta State for school,” Mauldin said. “They’re also a good football team and I would like to be a part of that.”

Phillip Leconte of Mill Creek also views Valdosta State as a possible spot to continue his playing career. Even though he’s already attended camps at Georgia, Florida State and Wake Forest, he couldn’t pass up the chance at Saturday’s event, especially since it was practically in his own backyard.

“I came here for my one-on-ones,” Leconte said, who is a defensive end for the Hawks. “I just want to see what I can do and improve a little on my technique. It was a short drive, too. Only about twenty minutes.”

The group started the day by logging their times in the 40, followed by agility drills at six different stations. After that, the players were set up against one another in position specific drills.

Linemen squared off against each other, while linebackers took part in tip drills. Most eyes, however, were on the quarterbacks, who threw to receivers guarded by defensive backs.

All that work in a short span to develop a young player, while giving the coaching staff a chance to see what talent is out there.

“We evaluate them all,” Dean said. “This is a good number of kids to have because you have time to evaluate each one. This group is about the most athletic that we have seen.”

Even though the event took place at Collins Hill, players from as far away as Mary Persons and Shaw were in attendance, all with the goal of becoming a better football player. But the large number of Gwinnett players participating, which was nearly half the group, gave coach Dean and his staff another chance to stock up on Gwinnett talent.

“(Valdosta State) knows its good football here in Gwinnett,” Calhoun said. “They know the kids are well coached and come from a good support system. They can come here and recruit a lot of schools because we have so many. It’s a great program and a lot kids want to be a part of it.”

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