*This is part one of a three part series with Devin Bush Sr., head coach of Flanagan HS, member of the 1993 Florida State National Championship team and member of the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV Championship squad.
PEMBROKE PINES Fl. – As the head coach of Flanagan’s varsity football team, Devin Bush Sr. has embraced his role as the Falcons’ headman. With several talented players on his squad, including four-star linebacker Devin Bush Jr., his son, and three-star safety Devin Gil, there are even more talented athletes within the program.
Bush says that some of these players are not receiving adequate exposure for a variety of reasons, be it scheduling conflicts, monetary restraints or even NCAA-mandated limitations surrounding contact with colleges.
To help counteract these realities, Bush devised an effort to bring the important exposure from Power 5 division football coaches to his own team. With careful consideration, the solution to his quandary was simple and the “Under The Lights Summer Training Camp” was born.
“Well I was sitting there kind of trying to figure out how to get guys some more exposure,” Bush said. “I thought let’s bring a school down where kids in my area, the tri-county area, have a chance to go to camp and get some exposure. A lot of these kids can’t afford to set up trips to stop at all these different schools in four or five days.”
Over the past few months, Jim Harbaugh’s “Summer Swarm” camp tour has helped to alleviate a few of the recruits’ struggles as the maize and blue coaches have reached out as staffers at camps across the country. This has generated a considerable degree of attention as the Wolverines’ set up shop at 10 locations in nine days.
According to Bush, this is a very valuable strategy for the schools, but more importantly a necessary strategy for prospects within his program.
“It’s too tough to put the strain on their bodies so it’s hard for the athletes to try and get that done,” Bush said. “It seems like the training over the summer has turned into asking the kids where they are going to be camping. You know, when some of the kids make those trips, what are they doing? They want to have the experience of going to camps as well, so it’s just trying to do as much as you can for these athletes.
“Me as a coach, I really don’t want my kids trying to travel and hit five or seven camps in four or five days. It is a tough thing to try and do, especially in the summer we are trying to get out there for our own strength and conditioning program. So it’s tough. Then as a coach as well, I have a team of 70, 80, 90 players. How am I going to take all 90 players on a college tour or trip like that? I don’t like separating like where, ‘you can go, you can go, you can go, you can go, but you can’t go.’ That’s tough to do as a coach.”
The proof of this camp, however, is in the results. Bush had staff members from Michigan, FAU, FIU, USF and Dartmouth at the camp, which was held at the Miami Dolphins’ practice complex. Massachusetts and Alcorn State also inquired about attending, but did not make an appearance at the June 6 camp.
“Yes, I think it was very successful,” Bush said. “I had over 100 kids come out and enjoy themselves. I watched them work closely with these coaches to learn some techniques and there were certain kids that really enjoyed the camp.”
While these camps produce overwhelmingly positive results for both the players in attendance and the schools staffing the camps, there are several proponents for limiting future ability to hold satellite camps, most notably coming from the SEC.
“Well here’s my take on the SEC,” Bush said. “The SEC is rich with schools and traditions, and those schools are part of a powerful conference. I think those schools own rules prohibited them from going to camps. The schools have the resources to find a way to get this done. These kids don’t. They don’t have that type of resources, so I’m on the side of the kids. They should get as much experience and exposure as possible.
Under current legislation, members of the SEC are not permitted to hold or attend football camps outside of a 50-mile radius. These rules, which were set by the SEC governing bodies, have resulted in heavy backlash from many coaches, most notably Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.
“Sometimes you get a chance to meet a guy like [Alabama head coach] Nick Saban or [Ole Miss head coach] Hugh Freeze, and all these coaches from the SEC and come to do a satellite camp,” Bush said. “So I mean you will never know how it effects these kids when they get to meet those guys. It’s a good thing for the kids and it should be allowed. I don’t see the harm. It’s a big business to get these kids to go to these schools, so it’s recruiting time anyways. So why not let these kids enjoy that? The only person being hurt here are the kids. The schools don’t get hurt. The kids do.”
Apart from allowing local prospects the opportunity to interact with different colleges, this camp provided an additional opportunity to forge brotherhood on the recruiting trail for those schools in attendance. That was the most notable aspect of the camp by Bush’s account.
“It was the whole interaction between all the staff,” Bush said. “It seemed like they had been there and done that before. They worked well. They were all on the same page in the drills. You would see they were having fun competing with the kids, all those schools and the staff was even getting together and doing teammates, so for me that was a treat. That was really cool.”