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Derek Anderson football camp inspires young stars


More than 100 campers flock to see Derek Anderson, Sean Mannion and others

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Derek Anderson, former Scappoose High School and Oregon State University quarterback, gathers the 'blue team' around him and prepares a play during the annual Derek Anderson Football Camp on June 7. Anderson, now playing for the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, said it's a great chance for the young kids to learn about football, and if nothing else, have an absolute blast.Football players at the pee-wee level are used to the wobbly, slow-moving passes from their peers. The game is structured for fun and for safety, and the ball is far smaller and lighter than a regulation pigskin.

But take a pass – even a light one – from an NFL quarterback, and the awestruck youngsters have trouble staying on their feet.

Scappoose and Oregon State alum Derek Anderson paid his hometown a visit on Friday as part of his annual football camp, taking a break before starting the 10th season of his career in the National Football League. He's slated to back up former Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, and will see Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers – just in the preseason.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Catching a pass from a quarterback three times your size - even an underhand pass - isn't always an easy thing.But last Saturday, his targets were considerably smaller, working with kids from age 5 up through graduating seniors, with the goal of teaching the game of football and having loads of fun.

“I think it's cool,” said Anderson, who stands at 6 foot six and just under 230 pounds. “It’s part of our platform we've been given to give back to the communities and help grow the game of football and realize that you can do so many things through athletics, and not necessarily just if you play sports. It's not always about playing the sport, but what you can learn from it.”

Would-be stars of all shapes and sizes crowded the field, taking part in drills depending on the age group. On one end, the youngest kids played four-on-four flag football, crowding around their quarterbacks – Anderson and current Oregon State starter Sean Mannion – to get the play. It wasn't anything elaborate, mostly run a few feet down field and try not to bump into anyone, but the kids didn't care.

A little further down the field, the more experienced and considerably larger players worked on a few passing drills. Anderson and Mannion drifted over from the first group after a time, forcing the offensive players to out-maneuver a frame nearly double their size to get open for a pass.

Scappoose head coach Sean McNabb worked with another set of running backs on catching passes out of the backfield, and across the track, the linemen worked with a group of volunteers on technique. Though teaching the skills is an important part of the camp according to Anderson, it's more about the kids getting a chance to be active and opening up their minds to the world of sports.

“It's a fun deal with a little bit of football involved,” he said. “Throw it around, make sure they have fun with it and maybe if they want to play football, great. If not, at least they had a great time today.”

A great time seems to come with the t-shirt, lunch and a photo with Anderson, as many of the attendees come back year after year.

“I've seen most of [the kids] grow up since they were little and now they're huge,” he said with a laugh.

Including himself and Mannion, Anderson's contingent included former Beaver Bill Swancutt and current receiver Blair Cavanaugh. Swancutt was drafted in 2005 by the Lions, and played for the Raiders and Ravens before closing his career in 2009, while Blair will return to the Beavers' roster as a sophomore.

Now that he's played in the NFL for nearly a decade, Anderson said he remembers attending camps in his childhood, marveling at the big names and relishing in the experience.

“I remember when I was that age, with professional guys and college guys being around you,” said Anderson. “It's something I didn't forget when I was a kid. I used to go to Trailblazers camp, and it was cool. Jerome Kersey, Cliff Robinson, Tracy Murray – those guys were all playing when I was little.”

He plans on continuing the event “until it wears out,” bringing a buzz back to his old high school stomping grounds each summer with the help of former coaches, friends and countless volunteers.

“I always appreciate everybody who helps out cooking burgers and taking pictures,” he said. “It's a fun day.”