Marine Corps camp drills more than skills in football players

Mount St. Joseph offensive lineman Shane Lowman doesn't hide the fact he likes to push his teammates to work hard to be best. So, when the rising junior came to the two-day Semper Fidelis All-American Diamond Flight Football Camp at Mount St. Joseph July 21, hosted by the United States Marine Corps, he knew he was in the right place.

The camp included 250 boys, ranging from rising seventh-graders to rising seniors, and focused on developing quality character, physical fitness and academic excellence.

Marine Corps Drill Instructors provided leadership training and drills that challenged the youths while professional and college coaches refined techniques to improve football skills.

When the session ended, Baltimore Highlands native Lowman was given one the awards for excellence in leadership.

"I felt overjoyed," said Lowman, whose parents own John's Italian Deli in Baltimore Highlands. "I take pride in leading a team. I find that it's something I just like doing. I don't like people walking around, I like to push them."

Lowman's high school coach, Blake Henry, watched the camp that featured some of his players, including Lowman, classmate Trey Busick and rising sophomore linebacker Justin Jacobs.

He took pride in Lowman's accomplishment.

"When you are a coach, you always look for good players who are really good players, who are leaders and don't have a problem getting on kids or teammates who are slackers," Henry said. "He's like a coach on the field, and it really helps to have a guy like that."

Lowman and countless others who attended the camp are the type of young men the United State Marine Corps would like to have when they select players for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, which will be held in Carson, California on Jan. 4.

Players are not selected solely on skill, but also leadership in school and community, academics and character and the two-day camp is a great place to evaluate them.

"We are not an ordinary camp, said Major General Joseph L. Osterman. "What sets it apart is actually the character development aspect of it."

Osterman, who played football at Southern High School, of Anne Arundel County, was on hand to watch the talented fleet of young athletes at St. Joe.

"We really tell these kids it's not only important to be good athletes, but academics are really important, your integrity is really important and your involvement in the community is very important."

In addition, campers like Lowman learned new techniques and hand skills, while also doing drills that are much more demanding than those at most high school practices.

"I liked it and the drills were a nice change of pace," said Lowman, who worked out the first day during a steady rain. "It was difficult, but you've got to work through adversity."

Rising sophomore running back Najee Savage, of Catonsville, also worked through the pain.

"It was probably the hardest camp I've ever been to, but I wanted to come back," he said.

Keshon Nowlin, who will be in the eighth grade, came away from the camp a better player — and one who hopes to eventually play at Gilman.

"This camp is a lot better than the other camps I've been to," he said. "It helped me improve a lot of skills and I liked the hard work."

Camps are held all over the country and Osterman enjoys the feedback from the parents.

"There are a lot of parents out there who understand sports are great, but they need to have a long-term plan for the future because not everybody makes pro football, and they really respect that fact," Osterman said.

The discipline, precision and structure of the camp often resonates with the athletes.

"I routinely have parents come back and tell me the kids say, 'Hey mom and dad, the Marines, DI's (drill instructors) and coaches all said the same stuff you've been telling me, it must be true.'" Osterman said. "The parents are universally satisfied. It's a very encouraging, but also a very disciplined approach."

Campers often leave with values or words that carry on.

"Some of the parents told me their kids have taken some of the coach's quotes and put them up on the mirror," Osterman said. "They look at those quotes every day as a way of changing their outlook on school and academics."

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