Whether it was first-hand instruction or Super Bowl tales, high school football players had a blast taking in everything former NFL lineman Jeff Bostic had to offer Saturday afternoon.
More than 30 players took part in a camp for offensive and defensive lineman — held in conjunction with this weekend’s Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship — at the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department’s Broaddus-Durkan Soccer Complex. The camp was run by Elite Athletic Events, which is also overseeing a skills combine for the tournament.
Although he doesn’t work for Elite Athletic Events, Bostic — a three-time Super Bowl winner — was the best-known instructor for the lineman camp.
Activity started around 2 p.m. when players from several different schools went through the basics, starting with stance and moving to hand and feet positioning. Bostic broke the large group into four smaller ones with the help of Murray County assistant Greg Burrell and Christian Heritage assistant Doug Davis, having players go one by one down the line to practice hand placement and proper weight shifting.
Then he went over when to hit an opposing lineman and when not to, often telling his pupils, “Make the guy come and break your bubble.”
It was a piece of advice Southeast Whitfield junior offensive lineman Matt Cloer knows is important.
“That’s a big one,” he said, “because I’ve gone too far at an opponent and plenty of times I’ve seen others do it.”
Others enjoyed Bostic’s presence as much as any specific drill. The 14-year NFL veteran, who retired in 1993, helped the Washington Redskins win Super Bowls XVII, XXII and XXVI. He was one of “The Hogs,” the nickname given by Redskins assistant Joe Bugel to the franchise’s core group of offensive linemen during the 1980s, a unit that also included George Starke, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm and Mark May.
It isn’t every day that type of success comes around.
“I told (the players) before, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are,’” Elite Athletic Events owner Kevin Fitzgerald said. “‘How many times do high school players get to learn from a three-time Super Bowl winner?”
Because seven-on-seven competition does not include linemen, the camp gave non-skill position players a chance to be part of the Southeastern. It was a new addition for this year’s second edition of the event, and it was also open to area players on teams not participating in the tournament.
Murray County, which played in last year’s inaugural tournament but is not in this year’s field, had representation that included sophomore Zach Ellis.
“It’s going to be good to help out the team with some stuff we learned here,” Ellis said.
Bostic was brought to camp through his friendship with Dalton booster Ken Brown, a fellow Clemson University alum.
The former Redskin previously said he wanted to stick to fundamentals, but the day was definitely about more than Xs and Os. Before the camp started he spent some time talking to Christian Heritage players.
“He’s telling us stories and asking us about our team and classification,” Christian Heritage junior Harrison Kranzlein said. “It shows us he wants to be here.”
And he did. Often drawing laughter from the group, Bostic didn’t refrain from getting serious or venturing off the field.
He told the athletes no correct hand or feet placement on the field was as valuable as their performance in the classroom. But he also made it clear he wants them to continue to chase their dreams.
“Is there another guy here who could play 14 years in the NFL?” Bostic asked the group. “I don’t know. But you should push every button to try and make it.”
Then he gave them a taste of glory. It started with the question, “Has anyone here seen a Super Bowl ring before?” After passing his rings around the circle, it shifted to a question-and-answer session and stories ranging from his four Super Bowl appearances to the best offensive line he was part of.
That overshadowed any of the drills for Southeast sophomore defensive lineman Hunter Floyd.
“I liked the stories,” Floyd said. “That was a good part to see what it was like to be in the NFL.”
Bostic, too, knew technique was only part of his mission.
“It’s life lessons,” Bostic said. “There’s life lessons at every level.”