One is an area high school football coach who wanted this area’s kids to have an experience easily available in the Lower 48. Another is a guy who grew up in this area and happens to have a bunch of famous friends. And then there’s the four guys who played in the NFL and always wanted to come to Alaska.
All these factors are coming together to try and create the 2016 All Star Football Camp from July 14 to 16 at Kenai Central High School.
The area high school football coach is Kenai Central head coach John Marquez. Coaching in the Lower 48, Marquez saw a bunch of summer camps where young players got to work with former NFL stars.
“They are a dime a dozen,” Marquez said of the camps in the Lower 48. “They are all over the place.
“But it’s hard to get them up here, and it’s hard for the kids up here to travel to the camp down there.”
The four former NFL players who have never been to Alaska are Tony Casillas, Flozell Adams, Marcus Dupree and Juaquin Iglesias.
“When I got in contact with these guys, I told them we’d love to be able to get you guys up here to Alaska to work with some of the youth that may not be able to get down to camps,” Marquez said. “They ate it up. They were all over it. Not a single one of them had ever been to Alaska.”
For Marquez, it’s now a race against the clock to get enough campers registered before the end of February so he can commit to bringing the players up here.
The coach said he has about 15 to 20 registered, and would like at least 50 by the end of the month. That’s why registering for the camp is $125 until the end of the month and $150 starting in March.
The camp is open to girls and boys currently in third through 11th grades and provides shirt, photo and lunch.
Marquez said the camp is noncontact, with campers just needing shirt, shorts and cleats.
“You take what you can get from it,” Marquez said. “The younger kids may just be in awe of being around Flozell Adams, who is 6-9, 350. The older players will get a chance to get tips and drills from NFL guys.”
Dan Nevitt — the guy who grew up in this area and happens to have a bunch of famous friends — knows what he got from similar camps growing up in Kenai. Nevitt can still remember basketball events in Homer with former Arizona coach Lute Olson and a separate appearance from former Celtics great Kevin McHale.
“The most exciting thing for me is to be able to give back to the community,” Nevitt said. “I hope to give these kids an experience they will truly remember for the rest of their lives.”
Nevitt, now 45, moved up to Alaska and eventually Kenai in the mid-70s, when his dad, Bruce, got a job in the oil industry. Bruce played football for the Los Angeles Rams and Dan said he hasn’t been back to Kenai since spreading his dad’s ashes on the Kenai River after Bruce’s death in 2002.
Dan Nevitt attended North Kenai Elementary (which was renamed Nikiski Elementary School in 1982 and eventually closed in 2004), Kenai Middle School and Kenai Central High School, but did not graduate from Kenai Central because he left his senior year to pursue sports opportunities in Seattle.
He eventually settled in Dallas, where a friendship with former NBA player Spud Webb led to friendships with a number of people in the professional sporting ranks.
“Dallas is a mecca for ex-pro athletes,” Nevitt said.
Nevitt used those contacts to get this variety of talent to come to Kenai:
• Casillas — The defensive lineman won the 1985 national title at the University of Oklahoma before the Falcons took him second in the 1986 NFL draft, behind Bo Jackson. He played in the NFL from 1986 to 1997, winning a pair of Super Bowls with the Cowboys.
• Adams — After playing at Michigan State for Nick Saban and earning the nickname “The Hotel” for his massive frame, Adams played in the NFL from 1998 to 2010, mostly for the Dallas Cowboys. He made the Pro Bowl five times.
• Dupree — The subject of ESPN’s 30 For 30 series episode entitled “The Best That Never Was,” Dupree was highly recruited in high school and chose Oklahoma, but left the school in the middle of his sophomore year. He played in the United States Football League for two seasons before a knee injury forced him to leave football. But he did come all the way back to play for the Los Angeles Rams in 1990 and 1991.
• Iglesias — Also attended Oklahoma, then was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2009 and was in the NFL until 2012.
In addition, Nevitt will bring coach Jason Thomas of Edward S. Marcus High School, a football powerhouse in Flower Mound, Texas.
Casillas said he would be more than happy to come to Alaska and teach football.
“I wanted to kill two birds with one stone,” he said. “It’ll be a family experience and vacation, and in the process I’ll get to work and coach football.
“I know the coach involved, and I’m probably more excited than he is. It’s a unique place, but obviously living there, like living anywhere, you can take it a bit for granted.”
Casillas describes himself as an outdoorsman and said salmon fishing and grizzly viewing will be high on his list of priorities when he gets here.
“In camp, we’ll all teach some good fundamentals and have a wealth of stories and perspectives,” Casillas said. “The defensive linemen will definitely want to come. I will help them grow as a defensive player.”
In order to register for the camp, contact Marquez at 690-3112 or email email@example.com.