Linebacker tackles camp

July 22, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

To little boys like Robby Hogue, professional football is something they can only sense.

They can see it on television. They can imagine what it's like. They can hear all the cheers. And if they dream hard enough, they can almost get a taste of what it's like to play every Sunday.

But on Wednesday, it all changed a little for Hogue and the rest of the campers participating in the Police Athletic League summer football camp at Fairgrounds Park. They got a little taste of what it's like to be a National Football League player.

A group of 22 players in the making picked up firsthand knowledge on the subject with the help of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ed Hartwell. It was only an hour of contact, but Hartwell's words were like getting a playbook for the future.


"I want to be a pro football player," said Hogue, 10, who attends Pangborn Elementary School. "I always watch it on TV, and now to meet an NFL player in real life taught me a lot. He told me how I should eat and that I need to work out more."

Maybe the biggest impression made by Hartwell, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound linebacker, was that football is a job and not a lifestyle. He talked to the campers in a calm, gentle voice, giving them knowledge from his experiences, then mingled with them like a big kid while playing touch football.

"I enjoy working with kids. Any time I can get the chance to work with kids, I do," Hartwell said after being put through a tough session of autographs. "We didn't have a pro football team in Las Vegas where I grew up. I didn't meet an NFL player until I got into the league. Kids have the dreams to be pro football players and I just want to give them the chance to get a touch of it."

"It was cool," Brandon Morales, 14, of Williamsport said. "It was a lot different because you only get to see them on TV and he came from Baltimore to come talk football with us."

For Hartwell, who runs his own camp in the Baltimore area, playing touch with the campers is what it's all about.

"I'm still a kid at heart," Hartwell said. "I had a lot of fun out there with them. I want them to know that I'm not just a football player. I'm a guy who just is lucky enough to play football for a living."

Hartwell gave the campers tips on how to act like a pro football player through diet, lifestyle and, most of all, commitment.

"You have to get your priorities straight," he said. "Family is important and I say the difference is like boys and men. Boys and girls do things because they want to. Men and women do things because they have to. You have to grow up and take responsibility.

"Make life easy ... don't make it hard on yourself. If you're going to school, get good grades. It makes it easier on you down the road when you want to go to college. Use the time while you are there because they aren't going to cut any of it anyway. Do things right."

Hartwell's visit was sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods and came midway through PAL's third annual one-week camp.

"He was fun. I never thought I'd get to meet an NFL player," said Troy Devin, 10, who will be attending E. Russell Hicks Middle School. "My goal is to make a football team. I don't care if I'm good or bad and I don't care if we win or lose. I just want to be on a team and I just want to play football."

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