Linta football clinic a winner for players
Sunday, June 20, 2010
By Dan Nowak, Register Staff
BRANFORD — Vladimir Ducasse, all 6 feet 4, 332 pounds of him, is all about having fun.
Ducasse, an offensive lineman who played football at Stamford High and the University of Massachusetts, was recently drafted by the New York Jets in the second round (61st overall).
As Ducasse conducted one of the running drills at the seventh annual Branford-NFL Football Clinic for youth aged 8-14 at Branford High on Saturday, he discussed why he never hesitates to work with youth.
“Football is all about having fun,” said Ducasse, as a group of about 20 youths stared in awe at Ducasse. “I love giving back to the community. I’ve already done a few clinics in New Jersey. I love doing these clinics and camps for the kids.
“My whole thing when I do these camps is to see that these kids have fun and make it fun. Even at the level I’m at now, even though the NFL is a business, it’s still football, and you’ve got to have fun playing football.”
When Ducasse was selected in the draft, the Jets released Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca. Many Internet reports have Ducasse listed as the heir apparent to Faneca. But Ducasse, competing with second-year backup Matt Slauson for Faneca’s spot, said the position is still up for grabs.
“I’m excited to be where I am now with the Jets,” Ducasse said, “but there has been no decision about who is replacing him (Faneca). I’m still competing for the position, I’m still working hard for it.”
The clinic is the brainchild of NFL player agent Joe Linta, who represents Ducasse. There were 11 NFL players, all represented by Linta, helping out with the clinic. Linta works with Kurt Evans of Shelton to make it a reality every year. Evans is the NFL marketing manager for Reebok, which sponsors the event.
“This is really a great turnout of kids (175), and they come from all around the state,” said Linta, who lives in Branford. “The first year we did it, we only had 18 kids, and two of the kids lived in my house (sons Nick and T.J.). I feel blessed to be able to put something like this together for the community.
“Kids around Connecticut don’t get a chance to interact with professional football players like this. It’s a win-win situation, because in addition to rubbing elbows with NFL players, they get to add to their development as football players.”
The event began with a high school quarterback clinic from 9 a.m. to noon. It 15 and was conducted by former NFL quarterback Scott Brunner, who played from 1980-85, including the Giants from 1980-83.
The youth clinic was held from 1 p.m. to 5 and included position drills, timed 40-yard sprints, a punt and pass competition, and 7-on-7 games.
Other NFL pros at the clinic were Brian Hoyer, backup QB for the New England Patriots, and Levi Brown (Buffalo Bills, quarterback), Vince Anderson (Giants, offensive lineman), Curtis Steele (Baltimore Ravens, running back), Rich Ohrnberger (Patriots, offensive lineman), Jovan Belcher (Kansas City Chiefs, linebacker), Pierre Walters (Chiefs, linebacker), Adrian Grady (Patriots, defensive tackle), Arthur Moats (Bills, linebacker), Terrence Johnson (Patriots, safety).
“This event isn’t about me,” said Linta, who also organizes an annual NFL player bowling tournament in March. “It’s about all these kids and all those smiles you see on their faces. It’s also about these NFL players who take time out of their schedules to come here and be with the kids.”
All money raised from the event is donated to the Branford High athletic fund.