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Gainesville sun article

Mike Peterson hosts youth football camp

By CLEVELAND TINKER

Special to the Guardian

Published: Friday, July 11, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.

Last Modified: Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 5:50 p.m.

Current and former NFL and former University of Florida football players coached more than 300 8-to-17-year-olds at Citizens Field Saturday morning during the first Mike Peterson Bring It Football Camp.

"Let's go! Let's go! Good job! Good job! Who is gonna catch the next man!"

Those words were repeated again and again throughout the five-hour camp.

The camp began with participants going through a series of stretching exercises before breaking into groups to go through various drills. Drills included running the 40-yard dash, sprinting through dummies and running through cone drills. The camp was free, and Peterson said he was happy to be back in the area giving back to the community.

Peterson, who is the starting middle linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars, grew up in the High Springs area and was a star player at Santa Fe High School and the University of Florida, where he earned AP All-SEC first-team honors as a senior in 1998.

He was drafted in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts with the 36th pick overall in the 1999 draft. The 6'1," 235-pound Peterson played for the Colts from 1999-2002, and has been with the Jaguars since 2003.

He is the older brother of Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Chicago Bears. While at Florida, Peterson started in 24 of 42 games and racked up 249 tackles, forced three fumbles with 13 tackles for loss and registered 8.5 sacks.

Peterson said it is important to him to give back to the community, and he said he plans on making the camp an annual event in Gainesville.

"This is great for the kids," Peterson said after taking photos with groups of players. "They get a chance to see us firsthand. We were all kids at one time, and whatever I can do to help the kids, I'm all for it."

Peterson was joined by his brother and a host of other players including Andra Davis (Cleveland Browns), Drew Miller (Jaguars), Gerard Warren (Oakland Raiders), Eugene McCaslin, Keith Kelsey, Johnny Rutledge, Mike Harris, Travis McGriff, Willie Jackson, Jauez Green and James Bates.

Bates, who will be in his third year as the play-by-play man for the Mountain West Conference football games, said he was happy to be involved with the camp, and to be around old friends.

He was arguably the most animated coach on the field as he shouted instructions to players and urged them to give it their all.

"I got a call from Mike Pete (Peterson's nickname) a month ago and jumped on board then," Bates said. "I just love working with kids, and it is good to see some of the old guys. It is just a wonderful thing for Mike Pete to do this. I would do this everyday if I could."

Patrick Davis, 15, said he was excited to be a part of the camp.

"This is fun, and they are teaching us a lot of things," said Patrick, an11th-grader who plays offensive and defensive line for the Eastside High School football team. "There are also some good coaches out here."

Peterson, who said he is 100 percent healthy after being injured most of last season, said he is ready to help the Jaguars make a run to the Super Bowl.

"I'm in great shape, and I am right back on my game and ready to get it rolling," Peterson said. "We have a good team on paper, but we must translate that onto the field on Sundays."

He also said he is glad to be in a position to have a positive impact on the kids who participated in the camp.

"This makes me feel like I felt when I retired my mom," Peterson said, as he looked at the kids going through drills all over Citizens Field. "I'm not trying to make a dollar off these kids. I make my money on Sunday."

Wheter we use it or not is to be determined.

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