The Alaska All Star Football Camp, held Thursday through Saturday at Kenai Central High School, made dreams come true for campers and ex-NFL players alike.
For the 100 or so players there to learn football skills at the nonpadded camp, the dream factor was obvious.
“It’s pretty cool that they were able to make their way up here,” said Matthew Zorbas, who will be a senior lineman for Kenai Central this season. “It’s a great chance to learn from guys who have made their way to the NFL.”
Ex-NFL players Tony Casillas, Flozell Adams, Juaquin Iglesias and George Teague were just excited by the opportunity the camp gave them to explore Alaska.
After some tough halibut fishing Wednesday, the four went fishing for king salmon on the Kenai River on Thursday. Each landed a fish, with Casillas checking in at 40 pounds and Adams knocking down a 45-pounder.
Adams, who was listed at 6-foot-7, 345 pounds, in a 1998 to 2010 NFL career that saw him make the Pro Bowl five times, said the fish fought for 17 minutes.
“It was not as hard as what we’re doing out here, but it was definitely worth it,” he said.
The camp is the brainchild of Dan Nevitt. To make a long story short, Nevitt grew up on the central peninsula and had fond memories of attending celebrity sports camps here as a kid.
So as he got to know more and more famous athletes living in Dallas, he decided to try and give some kids here the same memories he has carried with him for a lifetime.
“I can’t thank Dan enough for putting this together,” said Casillas, who won a national title with the University of Oklahoma and a pair of Super Bowls with the Cowboys. “The opportunity to come to Alaska is definitely one of those things that is on the bucket list.”
Casillas made the trip with his wife, Tamara. He’s been enjoying a break from the 100-degree temperatures in Texas as well as the mountains, bald eagles and glaciers that Alaska has to offer.
The second pick in the 1986 NFL draft has read magazines and seen television documentaries on Alaska, but nothing beats the first-person experience.
“The scenery is everything I thought it would be and more,” he said.
Jaryn Zoda, who will be an eighth-grader at Nikiski Middle-High School, had the same experience, only the other way around.
He’s seen some video of George Teague, who played in the NFL from 1993 to 2001 with the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. Now, Zoda gets a chance to get coached by the man he calls “Coach T.”
“I read about the camp and it was a good chance to learn from guys that get paid to do it,” Zoda said. “That doesn’t happen in Alaska too often.”
The four pros, along with Texas high school coaches Cody Slater and Jason Thomas, are providing a shot in the arm for football in the area and the state, according to new Kenai Central head coach Davis Lowery.
“I want these guys to know what it’s like to learn from coaches in Florida or Texas, or a guy with a couple of Super Bowl rings,” Lowery said.
Lowery also said the camp is helping the coaches in attendance.
Even with 20 years of coaching experience at the high school and college level in the football hotbed of Florida, Lowery said he is still learning at the camp.
“Of course,” he said. “Today I was teaching Cover 2 and the other coach was George Teague.”
Lowery said the first day and a half of the camp focused on technique, while the latter part of the second day got more into application.
“But it’s all with the overriding goal of having fun,” he said.
Lowery said he would like to use his contacts to make the camp longer, with more coaches and players. He sees it as a great way for Alaska players to get exposure.
Lowery credited the booster club at Kenai with making this first camp a huge success.
Casillas and Adams said they would look forward to returning, with Adams calling it “a must.”