NFL veteran and Super Bowl champion Will Blackmon returned to his alma mater and hosted the fourth annual Will Blackmon FUNdamentals Football Clinic at Bishop Hendricken on Saturday, followed by the first-ever Blackmon/Rowley Combine Camp on Sunday.
The camp hosted nearly 300 athletes from the youth level, while roughly 100 players attended Sunday’s combine.
Many big names in the New England football community made the trip to lend a hand, including former Patriots center Dan Koppen as well as many college coaches.
The goal for the camp was to help teach the basics of the sport and sharpen campers’ skills, while the inaugural combine gave local high schoolers the chance to showcase their skills in front of coaches and scouts from area colleges.
Warwick native and Arena Football League veteran Kyle Rowley joined forces with Blackmon in the combine camp and was excited with the turnout on Sunday.
“The feedback we got was incredible. The college coaches we talked to said that we had a ton of talent, more than they expected. Kids got recruited and parents were especially appreciative of us because it takes the hassle out of their summer,” said Rowley. “People are driving to Massachusetts, driving to Connecticut, driving all over the place. We wanted to showcase a combine-style camp here and we got a lot of great feedback … they’ve been waiting for this.”
Considering Rhode Island’s small geographic size, high school camps and combines can be sparse and makes it difficult for high school athletes to get exposure to collegiate recruits.
Rowley and Blackmon hoped to change that by welcoming players to the combine while also building connections with nearby Division I and Division II schools.
Fifteen different colleges made the trip to Warwick to get a glimpse at some of the talent.
“The type of kid that we marketed to were kids that felt like they should play college football and kids that felt like they were top-tier players,” said Rowley, who also felt that a strength of the combine was its intensity. “The way we organized the camp was that we made it very sink or swim. A lot of camps were very instructional, they take a lot of time to teach the fundamentals. We felt like if we’re marketing guys that want to play in college then they should be pretty in depth at their position already. So let’s throw them in the fire and let college coaches see which ones rise to the top. It was very fast-paced, coach on the fly, a lot of 1-on-1 competition. How do you play with bullets flying.”
The workouts left many coaches and scouts impressed, and Rowley expects offers to potentially be made in the near future.
“I talked to a bunch of scouts and they showed me their clipboards. They had kids circled and highlighted, some of these kids will definitely be getting offers from some of those schools, at least a handful of them,” said Rowley.
Blackmon and Rowley hope to made the combine a new tradition in Rhode Island. Their goal for next year is to improve on this year’s event, while also increasing its exposure and numbers.
“Obviously in its inaugural year there are things that we can iron out … some things that we want to do better and take up a notch,” said Rowley. “We think that we can get 2-300 kids out there if we do a morning session and one in the afternoon. We want to draw kids from a greater area, kids that weren’t here today will see from the footage what they missed out on.”