The kids of Jersey City, who were participating in a free football camp, had no idea that they were in the presence of a legend.
To them, the guy organizing the camp was just some older gentleman wearing a baseball cap.
Well, in reality, it was Rich Glover, the former two-time All-American from the University of Nebraska, the 1972 Lombardi and Outland Trophy recipient who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and spent time in the NFL with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
As a middle guard for the Cornhuskers, Glover led Nebraska to the 1971 national championship and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior – almost unheard-of for an interior lineman.
After the Huskers won the national title in 1971, they were invited to the White House by President Richard Nixon. When the Huskers were given a tour of the White House by President Nixon, they reached the cabinet room. Nixon asked which one was Rich Glover. He then told Glover to sit in this chair.
“This is where the Secretary of Defense sits,” said Nixon, who was a huge football fan.
But the 100 or so youngsters who were treated last week to Rich Glover’s 11th Annual Access to Life four-day camp at Caven Point Cochrane Field weren’t fully aware of Glover’s historic past.
So this year, for the first time, Glover showed the campers a video of his exploits on the field at Nebraska and in the NFL. He was obviously someone who came a long way from the streets of Jersey City and Snyder High School.
“I didn’t know about him,” said 13-year-old Jarred DeFreese, who attends Parker Middle School in Jersey City. “But when I saw that video, I was very impressed and made me really want to play football.”
“I knew a little bit about him,” said 13-year-old John McCray, who attends Union Hill School in Union City. “But I was amazed at all he did. I didn’t think he actually played at that level. It was very impressive.”
Glover even instructed the youngsters to go home and Google his name on the Internet.
“The little kids now see it on film, from college to the pros,” said Glover, who was also the head coach at Dickinson and Ferris in recent years. “I brought in my ball from the national championship. I had them look me up and see my profile.”
Glover has organized his camp, which is funded in part by the NFL as well from private donations that he collects, as a way to give back to the community where he grew up. He’s the most storied product of the Jersey City Recreation football program, having played for the old Greenville Tigers before going on to Snyder.
And the camp is more than just football. The kids learn about life skills.
In fact, when a sampling of campers was asked about what they learned most during the week, they all said something other than football. They pretty much all had the same theme – namely respect.
“I learned about respect and sportsmanship,” said 11-year-old Fernando Baez of Union City. “I’m very excited to be a part of this camp.”
“I learned about partnership,” said 12-year-old Jaheir White, a promising quarterback. “I learned that respect goes a long way. That’s the one thing I’ll take out of this camp. I’ll take that to my life, to my home. I know I can do that, go out and do something with my life.”
“I learned that respect and responsibility are important,” said McCray. “I’ve learned more here than I knew before.”
“I learned about teamwork and respect,” DeFreese said. “They’re important.”
“I learned about discipline more than anything,” said 14-year-old Darby Shirden, a student at P.S. 34 in Jersey City. “He [Glover] inspired me to know more about him and about discipline.”
Glover was impressed that the message hit home with the youngsters.
“It’s really a labor of love,” Glover said. “It’s a lot of fun and each year, it gets bigger and bigger. We get volunteers to come and work with us. Some of the former high school stars come back and help us out.”
One of the volunteers was former St. Anthony two-way lineman Rashad Brandon, who recently played in the annual North-South All-Star Classic. Brandon is headed to Monroe Junior College in September to play there.
“I told the kids that we didn’t have a camp like this when I was a kid,” Glover said. “We had to play in the streets. The kids here have some talent. If they work hard and have the dedication and commitment, then they have a chance.”
They received their first chance last week, thanks to the efforts of Glover, whose career will now not go unnoticed by those youngsters – and hopefully many others…
Union City’s Daiquan Kelly, who had a host of NCAA Division I schools interested in securing his services, gave a verbal commitment recently to Syracuse University and will head north to the land of the Orange in the fall of 2015.
The talented Kelly, who first received recognition as a wide receiver, is being recruited by Syracuse as a defensive back.
“They also talked to me about being a receiver, but I actually like playing defensive back better,” Kelly said. “It really doesn’t matter to me.”
Kelly said that he was impressed with every facet about Syracuse.
“I wanted to be away from home, but not too far,” Kelly said. “When I went to visit there, they showed me more impressive facilities than any other. It was also like a family there, with the players and the coaches. I really liked it.”
Kelly became the second member of the Soaring Eagles to secure a Division I scholarship. Lineman Steven Gonzalez had previously committed to Penn State. There was a time where it looked like both Union City products would head to Happy Valley, but Kelly decided upon Syracuse over places like Virginia, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.
“It was tough to say no to Rutgers,” Kelly said. “The goal was to get a scholarship, go to the best place for me. It’s amazing to me, because at first, I didn’t know anything about football. I didn’t think I had the ability to play at that level.”
Kelly said that he’s happy the decision is over and he can concentrate on the upcoming season with the Soaring Eagles.
“I now can get everything else off my mind,” Kelly said. “This relieves the stress and we can focus on winning a state championship.”
Teammate Jonathan Castellano will also go to school for free. The talented and speedy running back gave a commitment to Old Dominion, a new member of the Conference USA this season…--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.