JACKSON TWP. One of the central lessons of succeeding is that when you reach the top, you should send the elevator back down so those who come after you can make the climb.
Jackson senior football players had that chance earlier this month when the program hosted its annual youth football camp for players in kindergarten through seventh grade. Hundreds of future Polar Bears hopefuls came to camp to learn from the varsity coaching staff and players in order to improve their game and work toward the goal of being where Gary Parsons and his fellow seniors now stand.
“It was really fun, but there were some crazy kids there … they were wild. It was fun playing with them,” Parsons said. “They’re asking me what number I am and asking me to show them pictures of … it’s cool to see how young they are and eventually they’re going to come up and be in high school and work like we do.”
Parsons was assigned to work alongside his position coach, Jackson assistant Jay Rohr, at camp. Rohr is one of the best players in program history and suited up at running back and linebacker, so he and Parsons worked with those two position groups at the camp. Having played at both spots, along with receiver and quarterback as he’s progressed through the youth and middle school programs at Jackson, Parsons enjoyed the opportunity to work with the next generation Jackson players for the week.
However, Rohr is known within the program for his intensity and high-volume addresses to his players, an approach that could be challenging for a first- or second-grader experiencing football for the first time. That, according to Parsons, is where he came in.
“Coach Rohr’s all about competition, so we had them run through a relay race, run through bags, then pick up a fumble and race back,” Parsons said. “We were in the same station … we ran the station together. He’s still crazy and yelling and everything, but I was there to calm him down. I was the calm coach.”
Being a part of the camp brought back memories for Parsons. He remembered being in elementary school and working with some of the varsity stars at that time, players like Jimmy Dehnke and Darien Terrell. Both were standouts for the Polar Bears when Parsons was younger and the memory of playing in games at camp under their direction stuck with him.
Being in those players’ shoes now is an interesting feeling, but merely being part of the program’s offseason schedule is a nice change over one year ago for Parsons. He missed the first three games of the 2015 season after changing schools the previous year, then transferring back to Jackson from Walsh Jesuit. Due to transfer rules, he was unable to play until the fourth week of the season.
Coming in late meant he didn’t get to take part in summer workouts, conditioning or two-a-days and because of that, Parsons’ connection to his teammates wasn’t quite as strong as it could have been.
“I didn’t do anything over the summer, I didn’t lift or anything … this is my first summer in two years. Instead of just walking in, you have time to build trust between each other instead of coming back in Week 4 and trying to play with them was tough, even though they all know who I am from previous years,” Parsons said.
Having a full offseason will come in handy with the Jackson defensive undergoing a few changes from last season. Parsons’ role will also change, from linebacker to mostly defensive end. He will have chances to drop into coverage and play a similar role to last season, but enjoys defensive end most because he “likes getting sacks.”
Camp was one of the first activities of the summer and it provided a fun start to weeks of hard work and sweat in the sun. Unlike the young campers who tried to grab a quick nap on the equipment bags near the end of the camp week, Parsons and his teammates won’t be able to nap it out during a tough training session.
As head coach Tim Budd reminded them at the end of a recent practice, the first goal for their season is to enter Federal League play in Week 4 with a winning record to set themselves up to chase the playoff berth that eluded them last season. It’s an achievement that the young campers they spent a week working with in June would be excited to see.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB