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The Competition Heats Up© May 2013
The NFL High School Player Development program presented by the National Guard adds a new Lineman Challenge to complement its
Of the dozens of 7-on-7 events that have appeared on the high school football landscape in recent years, none have been more successful than the National 7-on-7 Tournament conducted by the NFL High School Player Development program. In terms of number of participating teams, overall caliber of play and the prestige of their National Tournament, no other 7-on-7 event can match the HSPD’s annual competition.
From its modest start in 2004 as an extension of the HSPD football skills and character development camps, the HSPD 7-on-7 competition has grown dramatically. Last year’s program had regional competitions in all 32 NFL cities that produced teams to advance and compete in the National Tournament held in Indianapolis. A 4-day, 3-night, all-expenses-paid event that includes special activities for players and their coaches alongside a spirited, multi-day competition, the HSPD National Tournament is the premier 7-on-7 event in the nation.
The HSPD 7-on-7 program begins at the over 200 football skills and character development camps that are free for all participants and conducted around the country. Skill position players are given the opportunity to work on their passing and receiving through various drills, and coaches can evaluate talented players for a spot on their 7-on-7 team.
A big part of the HSPD camps is the character development sessions, where all participants receive guidance about how to be better individuals in the classroom, in the community, and at home. For any athlete wishing to participate in the HSPD National 7-on-7 Tournament, completion of the character development session is a requirement.
The HSPD 7-on-7 competition gets serious at the regional tournaments, which are hosted by NFL teams in most of the 32 league cities. There, teams of 12 players and two coaches compete for the opportunity to represent their NFL team at the National Tournament, which this year will be hosted by the Cleveland Browns for the second time in three years. Winning the regional event and advancing is considered a great achievement for a 7-on-7 team, since the caliber of play is so high and the rewards of getting to the National Tournament are so great. Players and coaches take tremendous pride in representing their NFL team, and for many, participation in the National Tournament will be the experience of a lifetime.
At all HSPD events, there is an emphasis on character development, which is the most beneficial aspect of the program since all athletes will someday need to focus on life after football. That’s no different at the National Tournament, where the emphasis is on developing future leaders by incorporating parts of the HSPD Leadership Program into the event’s agenda of activities. National Guard representatives and former NFL players team up with HSPD to provide athletes with a “graduate course” in character and leadership that takes what they’ve learned at the HSPD camps to another level.
Top-flight competition between America’s elite high school athletes combine with character development and special activities to make the HSPD National 7-on-7 Tournament the ultimate 7-on-7 competition.
As impressive as the growth of the HSPD 7-on-7 competition has been, it has, like every 7-on-7 event, excluded virtually half of all football players – offensive and defensive linemen. There is no role for linemen in 7-on-7 football and there has not been any kind of comparable activity for linemen to showcase their talent. Until now, that is.
This year, the NFL HSPD program is breaking new ground by creating a new series of events for linemen – the HSPD Lineman Challenge – that will give them the opportunity to compete at HSPD camps and ultimately participate in the HSPD National Tournament.
“We wanted to have a competition for linemen that would complement the national 7-on-7 program,” said the NFL’s Senior Director of HSPD, Jerry Horowitz. “With the new Lineman Challenge, we’ve developed a framework that will give linemen a chance to compete against each other by performing drills and physical challenges that are based on important skills a lineman must possess.”
The HSPD Lineman Challenge will, like the 7-on-7 program, begin at the camp level throughout the country. Every HSPD camp will include a series of Lineman Challenge drills that will be competitions between players in critical linemen skills such as quickness, redirection, body control and balance, strength, and power and explosion. Linemen will receive training during the camps in techniques that will help them succeed in the Lineman Challenge competition. Winners will be determined by best times and most repetitions in the various skills competitions.
For the first year of competition in the HSPD Lineman Challenge, linemen from the camps will be assembled into eight teams of six competitors each and receive trips to the HSPD National Challenge in Cleveland where they will compete against each other in a “pilot” program. Linemen will finally be provided with the same opportunity to participate in a premier national event that 7-on-7 skill position players have enjoyed for years.
In future years, the Lineman Challenge will expand and rival the 7-on-7 in scope. “We want to gradually grow the Lineman Challenge as we did with 7-on-7,” according to Horowitz. “Eventually, we hope to have all 32 NFL teams represented by a team of linemen that will compete in the National Challenge.”
Over the last ten years, the NFL HSPD program has established itself as the premier free football skills and character development program for high school football players across America. Likewise, the HSPD 7-on-7 program has become recognized as the number one competition of its kind for skill position players. With the addition of the HSPD Lineman Challenge in 2013, the NFL’s High School Player Development program presented by the National Guard now serves even more of the nation’s high school football athletes by adding a new and exciting competition to the outstanding experiences in skills and character development that linemen have always received at the HSPD camps.
GET INVOLVED IN 2013 If you’re a coach who wants to share your expertise with athletes in your area, you can contact the NFL HSPD program and volunteer your services as a coach at your local camp. If you can spare more time and would really like to give something back to the game, you can organize a new HSPD camp in your region. Either way, you’ll be part of the nation’s best summer camp program for deserving athletes – improving football skills and building character with the NFL HSPD program presented by the National Guard.
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