DAVIE - One of the toughest decisions for high school football players and coaches to make these days is where to go for summer camp.
Every camp claims to have the best instructors, bring in the top recruits and help you to attract coaches from colleges to land that coveted scholarship.
With dozens of brochures lining the desks of coaches across the state, there are many factors to weigh before signing on the dotted line and mailing out a check.
While places like Lakeland, Tampa, Tallahassee, Orlando and Gainesville all look appealing to players and coaches, the reality of not only sending a player away, but also providing transportation is something that factors in on that very important decision.
The fact that Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach never had a camp to facilitate all the outstanding athletes produced in this football hotbed was something that Glades Day coach Willie Bueno and Palm Beach County coaches Bruce Hoffman and Jim Reynolds recognized.
Last year, the trio got together to run a three day camp at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. While they realized that the camp would be one that would teach and showcase future stars, they also felt that something needed to be added to attract some of the best football players in the countty.
"Every camp has instruction and intense competition," said Bueno, who moved back to his alma mater Glades Day after guiding Glades Central the past three years. "What we needed to add was a first class facility to house the athletes as well a great football environment."
The D1 Football Camp was born in 2002 with the objective that instruction would be everything. College coaches from Stanford, University of Miami, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Florida Atlantic and Florida International came down for the three days to work with some 300 campers who were promised that they would have a tremendous experience.
One of the campers from last year was Hallandale running back Leon Pennington Jr. Considered one of the top players in the state this coming season, Pennington's experience brought him back again this year, where the camp expanded to different sessions.
The opportunity to return to work with coaches from Wake Forest, Texas, Western Illinois, Miami, FSU, FAU, FIU and several other schools was something that brought Pennington back. He also came because the camp was split into two different sessions.
With over 450 campers on hand this year, the idea to run three days for skilled players and three days for linemen was any idea that may have attracted more athletes.
Pennington, along with Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas running back Gerard Hamlett and defensive back Chad Tuff, and Wellington safety Doug Hewlett were singled out as stars of the first session.
The first session, which attracted 265 players, also saw standouts like D'Ivory Edgecomb (Plantation American Heritage), Matt Reaves, Leonard Blythe and Jay McFadden (Dwyer), Lorenzo Lovely and Jesse Sylvestre (McArthur) and Stanley Arnoux and Larry Taylor (Glades Day) improve their stock.
"If you come to a camp like this, with all the college coaches on hand watching, you are really enhancing your standing," said Hoffman. "You learn so much at a camp like this because you have people who have been running these things for years."
The first session also saw linebacker Randolph Womack (Hallandale), Mitchell Beazer (Hollywood Hills), Chris Stubbs (Lake Worth), Victor Alejo (Northeast), linebacker Greg Gagne (Palm Beach Gardens), Dennis Campbell (Plantation) and Ruben Granger of Hollywood Christian step up and make a major impact.
While the position players were out to turn some heads and get their names on lists that rate the current prospects, the first ever lineman camp made quite an impression on the 160 players who attended.
Hollywood Christian's 6-3, 310-pound Dio Herrera was the talk of the camp. He showed that a 1A product can indeed mix it up with the big boys.
While Herrera was the star attraction, there were other top prospects who used the camp to enhance their standing as well. Players like defensive end Willie Young of Palm Beach Gardens, Andy Cius (Lake Worth), Todd Smith (South Broward), Steve Cornielle (Stranahan) and Richard Hopke (Plantation American Heritage) all showed off their talents.
Here is a list of the schools that at least sent one player to this year's camp: Davie Western, North Broward Prep, Hialeah, Plantation American Heritage, Bartow, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman, Parkland Douglas, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, Glades Day, Pahokee, Miami Senior, Hallandale, Hollywood Hills, Greenacres John I. Leonard, Fort Pierce John Carroll, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Miami Central, Rockledge, Royal Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale Stranahan, Hollywood South Broward, Venice, Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson, Coral Springs Charter, Wellington, Jupiter Christian, Lake Worth, Miami Northwestern, Miami Beach, Merritt Island, Coconut Creek Monarch (first year school), Oakland Park Northeast, Davie Nova, Palm Beach Gardens, Plantation, Hollywood Christian, Central Palm Beach (first year school) and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
With a week-long atmosphere that would make most colleges take notice, the second D1 Football Camp came to an end during the last week of June. As coaches and players headed back home, all were impressed and said they would spread the word that this camp is here to stay.