University of Miami

The Hurricanes' day teaching a youth camp also served as a trip down memory lane

Miami Hurricanes safety Jaquan Johnson and outside linebackers coach Jonathan Patke speak to kids at a Mark Richt satellite youth football camp at Richmond Park in Miami on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
Miami Hurricanes safety Jaquan Johnson and outside linebackers coach Jonathan Patke speak to kids at a Mark Richt satellite youth football camp at Richmond Park in Miami on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. jmcpherson@miamiherald.com

At one section of Miami's Richmond Park, Hurricanes offensive line coach Stacy Searels taught a group of aspiring football players to grunt as they pushed past a tackling dummy with full force.

At another, quarterbacks coach Jon Richt showed the kids how to throw a proper spiral.

And at another, UM safety Jaquan Johnson taught the youngsters how to properly wrap up while tackling.

"Memories," Johnson said.

He would know. Johnson roamed the Richmond Park fields as a kid at the start of his football career. He won national championships at the Pop Warner level in 2008 and 2009 as a member of the Richmond Perrine Giants.

On Tuesday morning, under a balmy South Florida summer sun, Johnson was back on his home field with about 20 of his Miami Hurricane teammates and the UM coaching staff for another one of coach Mark Richt's satellite youth camps.

But for Johnson and teammates Sheldrick Redwine and Delone Scaife Jr., who spent their peewee days at Richmond Park, it was an opportunity to foster the next generation of football players on their home ground. Included in that group of at least 200 kids were two of Johnson's nephews, ages 5 and 8.

Mark Richt zooms in on the UM quarterbacks competition after the final spring scrimmage on Saturday, April 21, 2018.

"I live right around the corner," said Johnson, a senior ready to help the Canes make a national title run. "This is my neighborhood. This is where I grew up. It's awesome giving back like this."

Redwine added: "It's really special. I can remember my days out here like it was yesterday. To be able to come out and help these kids is a great feeling."

Richt said there are ultimately two goals of these camps: Spread good news about football and make sure the community knows the Hurricanes football team plans to be involved off the field.

"We want them to know we care about them and love their kids," Richt said.

The fact that a lot of South Florida's top players begin their careers on community fields like these gives some incentive, too, Richt admits.

Sheldrick Redwine said he once played safety at Killian High for four games when teammate Jaquan Johnson, now with him at UM, was injured.

"We know a lot of great players come from these parks. ... We do a little recruiting, too," Richt said with a smile.

The morning at Richmond Park served as the third of four satellite youth football camps UM has held over the past few days, with others taking place in West Palm Beach on Friday and Fort Lauderdale on Monday. A fourth took place later Tuesday afternoon in Miami at Charles Hadley Park.

"I can't tell you how many kids or parents or coaches came to me and said, 'When my son got that letter, he got so excited,'" Richt said. "One father went as far as to say, 'I used it to help him get his grades up and say if you don't get your grades up, you're not going to camp.' "

So while the Hurricanes are still preparing for their marquee 2018 season opener against LSU that's less than three months away, they feel there's always time to give back to the community.

"It means everything," said Johnson. "I started here. I remember scoring touchdowns. We're looking at old pictures. Everyone's excited. Everyone's happy. ... It's a great experience for us."

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