Kill’s camps educate, influence youth

Coach Jerry Kill and his staff host camps throughout June and July.

Camper Aj Mazzucchi, 11, tackles a weighted bag during one of a series of football camps for youth which were hosted by Jerry Kill at TCF Stadium on Monday June 17th, 2013.

Jaak Jensen

Camper Aj Mazzucchi, 11, tackles a weighted bag during one of a series of football camps for youth which were hosted by Jerry Kill at TCF Stadium on Monday June 17th, 2013.

Dane Mizutani

Jerry Kill has a lot on his plate as head coach of the Gophers football squad, and he rarely takes a vacation.

But that hasn’t stopped him from adding more to his schedule in the offseason.

Kill and his staff have spent most of the last two weeks with youngsters from around the state for annual summer football camps. Kill said he’s even had children travel from North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas to participate.

These camps started June 9 and run sporadically through July 21 at TCF Bank Stadium.

“I’d like to,” Kill laughed about taking a potential vacation. “I always try and get away [at the beginning of July] for a few days and meet my brother. We bass fish once a year, but that’s about it.”

Kill and Gophers Director of Football Operations Dan O’Brien said the ultimate goal of the camps is to give back to Minnesota, and it’s an added bonus that they might influence the participants later in their careers.

“You never know what’s going to happen with these kids,” O’Brien said. “We want every single one of these kids to walk away and say, ‘I want to be a Golden Gopher.’”

Kill said the camps have more participants each year, but the Gophers limited the numbers this year to teach the fifth- through eighth-graders on a more personal basis.

 “We teach them the basics of football,” Kill said. “We also teach them the ‘Minnesota Rouser.’”

These teachings have affected 11-year-old Lakeville native AJ Mazzucchi, who was at a TCF Bank Stadium camp on Monday for the second straight year.

“I always have a blast here,” Mazzucchi said, “…and meet new friends. I love the coaches here, too.”

Mazzucchi said it’s a benefit to work out with college coaches because of their experience.

“They have more experience than anybody I’ve worked with in the past, and they know the right stuff from the wrong stuff,” he said.

Mazzucchi competes on the defensive line in the Lakeville Football Association, but he said this camp has allowed him to learn other positions. He added that his participation in these camps will help him throughout his season.

“I can pretty much guarantee it,” he said. “I’m progressing and getting better and better from this camp and other camps. “This is the most favorite camp I’ve done so far.”

O’Brien said this camp is unique because of the commitment from all members of the Gophers’ coaching staff.

“I think people would be hard-pressed to find another Division I staff where every one of its main position coaches participates in these types of camps,” O’Brien said. “It speaks to the character and quality of our staff that they want to be involved.”