VSU brings college atmosphere to Gwinnett with football camp

SNELLVILLE -- To the vast majority of high school football players who dream of one day playing in college, the opportunity to display their talents in front of a college coaching staff is one that is impossible to pass up.

And roughly 40 such players from throughout Gwinnett County and surrounding areas jumped at the opportunity when Valdosta State held one of its traveling mini-camps and combines Wednesday at South Gwinnett's Richard Snell Stadium.

Gwinnett has been a regular stop for Blazers coach David Dean and his staff to hold one of the nine such camps throughout Georgia and northern Florida.

Wednesday marked the third straight year the camp has come to South.

"We went to Collins Hill one year and Berkmar one year," Dean said. "The big thing for us is we get an opportunity to watch some of these guys. We don't have an opportunity begin where we are to come up here on Friday nights since we're playing Saturday. This gives us the opportunity to watch these guys and see their work ethic, how they listen and can they pick things up.

"We've gotten a lot of players from (Gwinnett County). We've been very successful with it. ... (South head coach John Small) has been very good to us. We've gotten a lot of players out of South (over the years) who have made a big impact on our success. John's a great coach, a great person. So, we've developed a good relationship. He and his staff have been very good to allow us to use this facility."

There is one South alum, sophomore Jazzin Anderson, among the seven Gwinnett grads on VSU's current roster.

And as Small points out, it isn't just the Comets who benefit from the exposure to a college coaching staff and atmosphere.

"Any way we can help kids in Gwinnett County, that's what we want to do," Small said. "They (VSU) want to do these camps and prospect combines, and it works out good. ... It's a good location for lots of kids to come over and easy access. We've got great facilities to be able to do something like this for these kids. ... It's a good way for these kids to be evaluated."

Evaluation is just one of the benefits the players involved receive from the camp, along receiving instruction from a college coaching staff.

And while Valdosta State may not be a major Division I program, the Blazers' success, which includes winning the NCAA Division II National Championship last fall, definitely gets the players' attention.

"You learn from a college perspective of what they want and how they want (to do things) in the future," said Malcolm Brown, a rising senior defensive lineman at South. "They prepare you for the next year, so you can come to see what they want on their team."