Nobody could ever confuse the friendly confines of Bowie State’s Bulldog Stadium with the college football cathedral that is Michigan Stadium, affectionately referred to as the Big House. However, for at least one Saturday afternoon the Wolverines took control of the Prince George’s County HBCU campus for a football camp that was as important for the players’ skills development as it was for the Big Ten Conference program to make its presence felt in one of the fertile recruiting hotbeds in America.
Approximately 200 of the District, Maryland and Virginia’s top high school football players received instruction from Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff with help from Bowie State head coach Damon Wilson and assistant coaches from other HBCU programs in the area. Harbaugh has become a barnstormer who exposes his program to elite players around the country through events like this. It is a chance to market the Wolverines’ brand to blue chip talent while laying a foundation to gain a competitive advantage in the high stakes game of recruiting from coast to coast.
“This is one of the real untapped places with as much talent as anywhere the country,” Harbaugh told the AFRO. “There’s a lot of major college football talent in this area. You can’t talk about specific players but there are some players out here who are really good.”
Ties between football in Maryland and Michigan run deep these days. Current University of Maryland coach D.J. Durkin was picked to lead the Terrapins program from Harbaugh’s staff two years ago. As Durkin builds his program in College Park, Michigan’s new offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, was a quarterback at Howard University before he became one of the best offensive coordinators in the game.
Hamilton is good friends with Bowie State coach Damon Wilson and was instrumental in helping stage the event on their campus. The former Super Bowl offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49’ers under Harbaugh was also a Rose Bowl winning coach at Stanford before two more NFL jobs with the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns.
“With all the talent in this area it’s very important for us to make our presence felt here,” Hamilton told the AFRO. “[Michigan] is about an eight hour drive away from here and it’s not too hard for parents and families to see their kids play. It’s an important place for us to be visible so we can compete for the top players around here.”
During the three hour camp players were drilled and coached at individual skills development stations focusing on the attention to detail required to succeed in the classroom while refining what they need to make an impact on the field this fall and beyond.
Wilson and his staff also were part of the contingent of HBCU coaches who participated in a day of tutelage from major college assistants and position coaches. Coaches from Morgan St. and Howard were active along with their high school counterparts from D.C. and Baltimore. The coaches from the smaller programs learned innovative techniques to maximize player performances while they also had a chance to familiarize themselves with talent that may not be of Big Ten Conference caliber but could play at smaller divisions.
“Anytime time you can spend time around coaches who have coached at the highest level and in the biggest games it can’t do anything but make you better,” said Wilson to the AFRO. “We also get the chance to introduce players and high school coaches in this area to our program which can do nothing but help us moving forward.”