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Dearborn Fordson, Southfield A&T open up football season with 3-day camps at Lawrence Tech

By: Jeff Dullack, August 10, 2017, 2:21 pm

Southfield – As football practice opened up across the state this week, there were several teams throughout Michigan who opened up their training camps away from their schools.

Southfield A&T and Dearborn Fordson were among the schools that held the first three days of their respective camps on the campus of Lawrence Tech and its new football facility through Wednesday.

Fordson head coach Walker Zaban said that holding a football camp on location has been something he’s wanted to do for years, but hasn’t been able to until he heard about the opportunity to hold the camp at Lawrence Tech.

“Honestly, we’ve been looking to do this for several years,” he said. “Earlier this year, I would say around January or February, I started looking into places to go and I had a hard time because usually camps during the summer are full and people usually get those reserved a year in advance. We didn’t have luck, we called several small colleges and NAIA schools and that didn’t work out and then one day I was sitting, reading my email and coach Duvendeck sent an email and in his email he introduced himself and Lawrence Tech Football and he mentioned if anyone would like to camp here for football in the fall, we can do that.”

In a similar case, Southfield A&T hoped to have held a camp on location somewhere last season after Southfield high school and Southfield Lathrup high school merged to create Southfield A&T, but was unable to due to cost and family commitments for several coaches.

But when Southfield A&T head coach Tim Conley learned of the opportunity to hold his team’s camp at a university just down the road from the high school, he felt it was a good opportunity for his team, and said it turned out to be a great experience.

“First of all, that place is beautiful and not everyone knows it,” Conley said. “Once you get on campus, one way, it’s all forest and wetland and you look the other way and it’s high rise towers and the city skyline. It’s really impressive what they have going on there, to be able to stay in the dorms, obviously and to practice three times per day is really going to be special for this group of kids.”

But for both programs, the idea of holding their camps on location, rather than at the high school was as much about team bonding and building chemistry as it was about football and what takes place on the field.

Zaban, who held his team’s final practice session at Lawrence Tech on Wednesday afternoon, said that he felt his Fordson team accomplished everything it had hoped to during its three day camp and came away impressed with what the campus and facilities had to offer.

“We wanted to do it to get some bonding,” he said. “Get them to gel, get them to become more of a team and ultimately, I think we exceeded our expectations for being here. In terms of Lawrence Tech University, they were great, they hosted us, the food was fantastic, they accommodated to us and I give them a ton of credit. The staff has been nothing but great and fantastic and helpful, coach Duvendeck’s staff has been here, they actually bring out the water for us, so for our kids to see college coaches doing that for us, I think that they were surprised that they would do that. Overall so far, our experience has been great.”

For the players participating in the camps, the experience is obviously different from what they’ve been accustomed to in years past, practicing on a college field and living in the dorms, rather than going home each night, but according to both Zaban and Conley, their players have embraced the opportunity.

“It was good because we got experience that a lot of kids and teams don’t get to have,” Southfield senior defensive back Matthew Gilbert said. “Knowing that we’re down the street that’s a good college and now they’ve added a football program, which makes it even better. It was a real good experience, we got to meet coaches and we actually felt like a program.”

Fordson senior lineman Labib Joumaa admitted that there is a difference in the atmosphere between playing at the school and playing on location, but said that the three days he and his teammates spent at Lawrence Tech proved to be a good opportunity for team bonding.

“It’s a different atmosphere, obviously, nice field, nice facility and nice dorms,” he said. “Better team chemistry, you bond with the people that you barely know and you learn more about your teammates, it’s a good experience.”