Football showcase undeterred by bad weather

Participants and staff members sit in the stands after Sunday's football showcase at Manning Field. (Courtesy photo)

LYNN — The rainy weather wasn’t ideal for Sunday morning’s 11th Annual All-American Football Fundamentals Showcase at Manning Field but that didn’t stop a group of 125 gridiron hopefuls from learning the ins and outs from professional stars.

NFLPA certified agent Sean Stellato organizes the fundamentals camp each year and brings a handful of his clients to Manning Field. This year’s showcase was hosted by New England Patriots teammates Brandon King and Marquis Flowers, and Obi Melifonwu of the Oakland Raiders.

“I just think it’s great to be out here and it’s great to be able to talk to these kids,” King, entering his fourth season with the Patriots, said. “You tell them some things you would’ve listened to when you were their ages. I think that’s the best thing about it. You try to tell them what it takes because you were once in their shoes.”

King embraced the opportunity to interact with a group of his fans who hope to follow his footsteps.

“When we’re in game-mode we don’t talk that much,” King said. “You just focus on your job for that day. Just going out here and showing these kids that no matter where you are you should respect whoever you’re around. We come out here and try to show a lot of love to these kids.”

Despite the wet weather, there was no setback of any sort. Participants took part in basic football drills throughout the morning and held a 40-yard dash race. They were also split for positional drills and top performers were rewarded at the camp’s conclusion.

Stellato said the rainy weather provided a valuable lesson for those who look to continue in their youth football careers.

“You play in the rain,” Stellato said. “It’s almost like getting used to being out in the rain, wet footballs. We live in New England. That’s what makes the Patriots so successful, they dominate in the elements. A lot of really hard-working kids in this group. I’m so moved by how much they absorbed and how excited they were.”

For Stellato, bringing the event to Manning Field brings back memories of his own playing days. Stellato quarterbacked the varsity football team at Salem High School and his career with the Witches was highlighted by a Super Bowl appearance in 1994. After a post-graduate year at Gunnery, Stellato played Division I football at Marist.

“I played in the Agganis game in 1996,” Stellato said. “We had epic games here and battles, all the way from Pop Warner in 1986 all the way to 1996 in the Agganis. It was a 10-year run. I’m happy to be here. The two words we preach to this group is to have fun and compete.

“To have Marquis Flowers, Brandon King and Obi Melifonwu come down to Lynn and Manning Field is cool,” Stellato added. “One of the greatest athletes ever, Harry Agganis, played here. It’s cool to be here and I’m sure he’s here in spirit.”
Stellato hopes to continue the showcase with each year’s running building on the previous year’s success. With the opportunity for fans to interact with Stellato’s core of clients, Stellato said the event highlights the human element that comes with being a professional athlete and that’s what makes it unique.

“A lot of times when they take their helmets off, people don’t get to see the human element of the players,” Stellato said. “Us being able to expose that, stress that, preach it, actions speak louder than words. I’m very blessed to represent these guys. They’re class acts.”

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