Long Beach State might not be a football hotbed, but that did not stop Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart from selecting the campus to host his summer camp at the Jack Rose Track.
The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner, who led the USC Trojans to two national championships, was on hand June 26-30 to help 7-14 year olds polish up on their passing, receiving, rushing, tackling and blocking skills through a football camp built around drills and lectures.
Leinart said that the Beach was chosen to host the camp because of its proximity to his native Orange County.
“Long Beach State was very welcoming to the idea,” he said. “It’s a beautiful campus, my brother [Ryan] went there, so I’m thankful for Long Beach State and all the people who helped make this possible.”
Rooms in the Los Cerritos Residence Hall were also reserved for campers who chose to stay overnight.
The Matt Leinart Football Camp also takes into consideration the wide age range of the children enrolled, which is one of the reasons why safety was emphasized throughout the five-day session. Campers engaged in non-contact drills and 7-on-7 passing league style scrimmages with the supervision of Leinart, his NFL teammates and former college football players.
Among the former Trojan players were Darrell Rideaux, who was a standout cornerback at Long Beach Poly High School and Deuce Lutui, who is Leinart’s Cardinal teammate. Others at the camp include Cardinal cornerback Matt Ware, Houston Texans QB Shane Boyd and back-up Cardinal QB Kurt Warner. Current football players from Leinart’s former high school, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), were also overseeing the camp.
Warner, a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player also gave the crowd of enthusiastic campers a pep talk in between drills. He preached the importance of work ethic and how it is crucial for aspiring football players to succeed in the NFL.
“Always have fun in whatever you do,” Warner said. “Whether it’s school or football and whatever you do in life, don’t let anybody take the fun out of it.”
Leinart expressed the same sentiment.
“You’ve got to love it because once the fun is taken out of what you do, then it’s time to move and try something else,” he said.
Leinart said that he never had the chance to enroll in a football summer camp when he was younger, and that is one of the factors that inspired the idea behind this camp.
“I want to have one every year,” he said. “I’m glad a lot of NFL players do camps like this because it gives these kids a chance meet players from the NFL, which is most of these kids’ dream.”
Taking those NFL aspirations into account, Leinart said he hopes the campers will take from this experience the importance of learning the fundamentals of the game.
“At the professional level, guys are just as good as you are, so what’s going to set you apart are the little things that you do well,” he said. “I tell the little guys to ‘be a sponge and take in as much as you can’ and hopefully they can learn something from it.”