The bulkiest football players on the field, the ones who do the dirty work with little fanfare, don’t get much live work during the summer.
While their teammates have calendars filled with 7-on-7 passing league events, the linemen are left to work on their own from when school lets out until preseason practices begin. They lift weights and go through line-specific workouts, tasks that pay off eventually, just not with the trophies of 7-on-7 tourneys.
The linemen occasionally rise from obscurity in the sweltering summer months, most notably for the annual Elite Line Camp.
Mill Creek offensive line coach Josh Lovelady and some of his friends in the business of training linemen ran the three-day camp, which concluded Monday, at Flowery Branch this year with 296 linemen from various North Georgia schools. Lovelady’s Hawks were joined by fellow Gwinnett schools Archer, Brookwood and Lanier, as well as out-of-county programs like Cherokee, Flowery Branch, Jefferson and Ringgold.
It was the 11th Elite Line Camp, as well as the third that also included defensive linemen.
“Just being together is the best part (of the camp),” Mill Creek senior Collin Janowski said. “It’s important for our team bonding and it’s just fun. We’re having a good time and we get to come out and compete together as a unit. It’s just fun to compete together.”
The camp is bigger than ever, but not too big — by design.
“It’s about word of mouth,” said Lovelady, who has headed up the camp since it started. “We don’t advertise it real big like, ‘Does anyone want to come?’ You have to trust the line coaches who are coaching your kids. It’s like your own personal kids with the babysitter. You better trust that they’re safe, that they’re doing things right, that they’re teaching the right technique. I looked at it and the coaching staff here averages 20 years of experience per coach and we’ve got 25 coaching stations here. So you’re talking about a lot of experience and guys who do it right.
“Our kids will be coached well whether it’s me coaching an Archer kid, or an Archer coach coaching a Brookwood kid. It’s a little fraternity. We all push them hard whether it’s our kids or someone else’s kids.”
The campers move from station to station for various workouts, getting instruction from coaches of different high schools. Some fun games and competitions are mixed in throughout the day, with a guest speaker at lunch for each session. Monday’s speaker was Atlanta Falcons offensive guard Ben Garland.
“I think they enjoy it,” Brookwood offensive line coach Mike Hill said. “They have a good time. It’s a great bonding time for them. They get to start working together in the heat of the day and they’re getting tired. Once kids get tired you really see true character coming out. It’s a great way for them to bond and learn how to work with each other even when they’re tired.”
Hill brought all of the Broncos’ linemen, including its largest-ever group of ninth-graders, 16. Some schools also brought tight ends and overall there was a good balance of linemen in each grade.
“It’s vital for our offensive linemen and defensive linemen,” Hill said. “I’m glad Josh has added the defensive line group. There are not a lot of camps in the summer just focusing on line play. It’s not like 7-on-7 where the guys get to go a lot. It’s a great teaching camp and learning camp about playing the line of scrimmage. We come every year. We have great coaches who come here every year. It’s a great way to get install in for the season and a great way get the fundamentals across to the kids.”