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Rookie Clinic Proves To Be A Huge Hit With Kids

Posted Jun 7, 2012

Over the last two years my son has become a veteran of the Dolphins Academy youth football camps, but last night along with other children of season ticket members he got to hang out with Ryan Tannehill.


Tannehill and 24 of his fellow rookies took part in the 2012 Dolphins Academy Rookie Clinic inside the team’s practice bubble and helped send one Barry Kent away one happy camper. This was the first time my son got to learn football and go through live drills with current Miami Dolphins players and he was intent on leaving an impression.

Considering all of these kids are in the last days of the school year and were coming to the facility on the heels of a school day, their energy level at the very beginning was, as expected, a little low. Heck, Barry even said on the drive down that he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to run, throw and catch with the same vigor as in his previous camps.

Needless to say, all of that changed after Twan Russell introduced the 25 rookies and let them quickly demonstrate the positional drills they were going to be working on with the kids. One rookie in particular, defensive lineman Jarrell Root, pretty much stole the show with his one-man comedy act and helped make Barry identify the defensive line station has his favorite stop on the circuit that consisted of two-minute sessions, including autograph time.

“I love kids and it’s really fun to get out there with them because they love the game,” said Root, an undrafted free agent out of Boise State. “For us, to see them see us at a different level, not just out there playing football but right here having fun with them, that’s huge. I had someone do that for me and it makes all the difference in the world. It makes you want to play sports, it makes sports that much more important to you and just that much more fun. I always like getting involved with the kids because they really do love this stuff and they appreciate all the time that you give.”

Being as Root’s station happened to the last stop for my son, he and the other rookie defensive linemen had some big shoes to fill in order to earn that designation of favorite station. The way it worked after the player introductions was that Russell broke the group of kids up into six smaller groups by age and Barry’s group of 8-year-olds began the evening with the wide receivers in the west side of the bubble.

Last Christmas during the school break, Barry played wide receiver and linebacker at the Dolphins Academy Christmas Break and helped his team win the Super Bowl, so it would have been easy to conclude that this would be his favorite station. Rookie draft picks B.J. Cunningham, tight end Michael Egnew and wide receiver Rishard Matthews manned that station along with Tannehill’s favorite target at Texas A&M, Jeff Fuller and a few others. They taught the kids how to properly run a slant route and how to catch the ball with their hands and bring it in to their bodies, which in today’s passing league is very important.

Tannehill was the only quarterback working so he had to shoulder the biggest load. Of course being Miami’s first-round draft pick made Tannehill the most popular when it came to getting autographs. Still, he managed to leave a lasting impression as he showed the kids how to take a three-step drop and throw the football as well has how to hand the ball off properly. As it turned out, my son left his own impression on Tannehill as he delivered his pass quicker than the ex-Aggie anticipated. Tannehill’s shocked response earned a laugh from Barry and the other kids.

“Anytime you’re able to go out, teach them a few things and have fun with them it’s worth it because that’s the basis of this whole thing,” Tannehill said. “I got asked by one kid if I could kick a field goal for them and I had to remind them that I’m a quarterback, but they were having fun with it. They just wanted to know what it’s like being a quarterback and it was just a lot of fun.”

From there it was on to the running backs and former University of Miami standout Lamar Miller. When he and fellow Hurricane Olivier Vernon were introduced they drew the loudest applause. Vernon is actually a graduate of the Dolphins Academy, having been a camper for three summers when he was 10, 11 and 12.

Shifting to defense, Barry sprinted to the linebacker station since he also played that position during the winter camp. There’s nothing like watching kids of all ages attack the tackling dummy and try to make scary faces while growling, so that was another hit.

With the clock winding down, my son’s group headed over to the fifth station with the defensive backs and worked on backpedaling as well as how to properly line up in tight coverage on the receivers. That session ended with a fun backpedal race and then it was over to Root, Vernon and the other defensive linemen.

“He was so funny,” Barry told me after the clinic ended. “He fooled me twice at the end when he got me to jump before the moving the ball. I was laughing too hard and fell for his fake.”

Laughter was the easiest sound to detect throughout the 90-minute clinic, as it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the kids or the rookies. The parents were allowed to watch from outside the lines and their final difficult task was convincing their kids it was time to leave.

In addition to Barry’s smile and nod of approval as we left the bubble, the next best indication that he had a memorable experience and a draining one was how quickly he fell asleep on the ride home.
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