In the world of competitive prep football, summer camps are everything. The camps, designed to continually raise the athletes’ level of competition, as well as conditioning, have become an integral part of the success of GMC Prep under head coach Brad Owens, who is entering his second year at the helm.
After a successful run at their recent Football Athletic Auction, the Bulldogs were able to rake in more than $15,000, part of which was used to send the entire football team (55 players) to an exclusive camp located at the University of North Alabama (Florence, Ala.)
According to Owens, most of the teams at the camp were from Alabama and Mississippi, with GMC Prep surprising some of the larger Alabama schools by bringing in 55.
The University of North Alabama is known in the football world as the host of the Division II National Championship, which is held there each year.
“They hold the championship there. It was a three day camp. It’s a very tradition-rich place. They are serious about their football,” said Owens.
Owens also stated that a few players were unable to attend for various reasons, and that GMC did bring out one of the higher totals of all the high schools that participated.
“We took everybody that was able to attend. There were about nine kids that were unable to attend for one reason or the other,” said Owens.
The greatest coaching dynasty in history — Tommy Bowden, Terry Bowden, Jeff Bowden and their legendary father Bobby — were all present to give pointers and guide the players through the necessities of the game of football.
“It was essentially two separate camps; the Terry Bowden Skill Camp and the Terry Bowden Lineman Camp. The lineman and skill guys both participated in two different locations,” said Owens.
With 55 players in an out-of-state camp versus 6A players, one might expect that a knick or cut might happen.
“We had some minor issues here and there, blisters and twisted ankles, but nothing too major. There was a lot of heat exhaustion going on,” said Owens. “They put them through some agilities and strenuous work, some team stuff and 7 on 7. They taught them different skills and coverages. It was a good camp.”
Even with the large number of participants, GMC Prep did well and caught the eyes of several coaches in attendance. Owens was taken aback by the aura of the legendary Bowdens — and rightfully so.
“I got a chance to be around Terry, Bobby, Tommy and Jeff — they were all there. I talked to all of them, which was nice. They are the winningest family in the history of college football,” he said. “There were probably 400 kids from six different states. Our kids really fared very well against that competition.
Owens was excited when he began to roll off his players’ accomplishments, which was astonishing considering GMC’s single A size and the large percentage of 4A and 6A players at the camp.
“One of our teams finished tied for first one night. We did very well passing against a Huntsville team,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, was that GMC Prep came away from the camp with one of the six MVP trophies — and it went to returning All-State punter Joseph McAllister, who lit up Alabama with his soft hands in the end zone. GMC’s up-and-coming Hunter Harding also brought home a major award — the ninth and 10th grade Lineman Challenge Award.
Owens was happy about his players’ accomplishments and said it had been quite a week for McAllister.
“He’s had a whirlwind week. And he still had enough in the tank to go over there and get some attention. As a receiver he put on quite a show there,” he said. “During the 7 on 7 drills he was almost unstoppable, so the kids starting calling him Touchdown Joe — it was funny.”
McAllister has a nice, prototypical receiver build and has the reach and hands to make the impossible catch possible.
“They were just throwing it up to him in the back of the end zone. He has in-the-air ball skills. He just knows how to position and time his jump,” said Owens.
With the large number of players from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi on hand, it was no shock that many college coaches were on the scene, surveying the talent.
“It gave us a chance to see the talent level from those places. They were shocked that we had 55 kids there. Huntsville High in Alabama had only 52 kids. They were a 6A school and they were shocked we were a single A school,” said Owens. “Several coaches showed some interest in our kids. We have quite a few new kids this year, and the camp gave us a chance to kind of bond.”
GMC Prep will begin its annual Passing League Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The League will take place Tuesdays and Thursdays and will also feature other area teams.
“We will use it to work on our secondary and defensive skills. Our lineman will do some supplemental work also. We will do it until the season begins. We also have our daily workouts in the morning,” said Owens.
At the end of July GMC Prep will also be instituting a Super Stars competition for the prep players (similar to Bert William’s Iron Bulldog Challenge). The coaches will also be using this event to hand out a few awards for offseason weightlifting.
Another surprise for Bulldog supporters this season will be the start of reserve parking. According to Owens, the school will designate an exclusive area for tailgaters, and also remedy the potential stress of parking problems.