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High school football players sharpen skills, hope to impress at 'The Clinic'

"Believe in yourself. Never say no. Keep pushing."
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Posted at 7:30 PM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 09:38:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Saturdays in the fall are almost exclusively reserved for college football. Everyone on the field would normally be watching a game either on TV or in person, because that's where they aspire to be.

This is a football camp called The Clinic, organized by former UVA and NFL receiver Billy McMullen and QB coach Malcolm Bell.

It's specifically designed to mimic a college or a pro camp workout.

“They treasure it,” McMullen explained. “They take full advantage of it and we have a lot of hungry kids out here that really want to get after it and really want to be noticed, but at the same time, build their skill sets and stay focused on the task at hand.”

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“I know a couple of guys that had opportunities that don't have opportunities anymore,” Bell added. “Right now is just vital. More than any other time ever, for guys to get a look and get a consistent look."

College coaches do not have recent game tape to watch on these players, some of whom already have scholarship offers, but many do not.

This camp not only works on specific areas of improvement, but they have photographers take photos and video of the kids working out that they can use to send to prospective programs.

Even if they post it on social media, that can generate attention.

“Coaches want to see something you can bring to the table,” McMullen said. “Is he athletic? Do a backflip on Twitter or social media. Race your friend, or go one-on-one with your friend, and then start posting other things about your character. Coaches will say hey we really need to look into this guy. I've seen it before.”

“Some kids have those qualities and intangibles that a coach may feel like he can use at the next level,” Bell added. “Now, a lot of coaches just don't base things off statistics, they look for measurables. They look for can he fit in my scheme? They look for quick twitch ability depending on the position. It's that one thing that a coach looks for that's not the same with every coach.”

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Most high school programs are not allowed to do much practicing yet because of COVID-19 restrictions. It's worth giving up part of a Saturday to not only have up to date video, but to also show a dedication to improvement that other players might not have.

Juwan Dent is a senior quarterback at Highland Springs.

“Me being out here, just competing with other quarterbacks, good wide receivers and defensive backs is just making me better every chance that I get,” Dent said.

“Normally a coach looks at a film and says 'man that kid can go,’” McMullen said. “The very next question they ask is how is this kid? How is he around his friends? What does he do? How does he act? How is he on social media? Coming out here on a Saturday morning, that tells a coach a lot.”

“Right now, in times of uncertainty, it'd be easy to just sit on the couch and say, I did so and so or whatever the previous season, you need to look at that film,” Bell said. “These kids are coming out on a Saturday one, because they want to get better, But they also want that opportunity. They want that shot.”

And one shot is all it might take.

McMullen did not have a scholarship offer coming out of Henrico High School, and only had one offer after a post grad year at Fork Union. Just before he was going to commit elsewhere, he landed an offer from UVA, where he was an All-ACC performer and won the Dudley Award as a senior before going on to play for 6 years in the NFL.

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“It was a long journey for me. There was no silver spoon. It was a grind,” McMullen explained. “I never tell a kid he can't do it. I don't care if he's 5-foot-1, running a 5.8 playing receiver. I'll never say he can't go. Because that's what they were saying to me.”

“Forget what we're talking about,” he continued. “ Forget what your mother says, forget what your father says, forget what I think, you've gotta believe it. That's the moral of the story. Believe in yourself. Never say no. Keep pushing.”

The Clinic has two more camps scheduled for October 31 and November 14. Interested players can sign up here.

The camps limit the number of players who can attend in order to maximize instruction, but there are talks about adding more camps in the future.

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