Created: Saturday, June 16, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

Huskies lend hand at camp


SUGAR GROVE – Put your hands on your knees, sway your hips and pretend you're at the dentist.

Nearly 140 pre-teen boys mimicked part of Northern Illinois' football pregame ritual Friday morning, punctuating the practice with repeated chants of "Ahhh." One of these days, they'll sound more menacing. Until then, running drills and being with the big guys was good enough.

Kaneland Youth Football concluded its weeklong Skillz and Drillz clinic at Harter Middle School with a visit from 20 Huskies. Athletes opened the camp Monday by learning fundamentals. By week's end, they were scrimmaging NIU players, who showed a curious penchant for fumbling after a series of seamless laterals.

"I'm very glad they had this," said 9-year-old Cayden Tegtman, an incoming fourth-grader at John Stewart Elementary School. "This was the first year they've done these camps, and I'm glad they did."

A sixth-year endeavor, Kaneland Youth Football held its inaugural camp amid strong parental support and the highest turnout of league players yet. About 60 5- and 6-year-olds have signed up for the 2012 flag football season, and the registration for 7- to 11-year-olds in tackle leagues has exceeded 200.

While coaches likely know where a given player might be penciled in during the season, the camp offered a special wrinkle.

There was no typecasting huskier players as linemen or the fastest in the group as running backs or receivers. Instead, players learned the techniques at each position. 

"Doesn't matter how big, how small," said counselor Jody Henningson. "You can have fun doing it all."

Henningson was among a handful of young adult players who were on hand all week, and served as living proof of the importance of versatility. The 2008 Kaneland alum switched from high school quarterback to receiver at NCAA Division II Bemidji (Minn.) State, where he has one remaining season of eligibility.

NIU players flanked him Friday, responding to networking from Huskies linebacker/special teams standout Bobby Winkel, a Marmion alum from Batavia. After visiting DeKalb with the Cadets for the NIU spring game, Marmion assistant Tim Betustak – whose sons participate in KYF – approached Winkel about helping out at the camp.

Winkel did Betustak a couple of dozen better.

Though some Huskies blushed at their new titles less than a week into the first wave of summer workouts, Winkel, a special education major, quickly grew accustomed to the sound of "coach," something he hopes to be after college.

"It's kind of that aspiration coming true," Winkel said. "As life goes on and you get older, it's like, 'Wow, I am really getting old.' Kids are starting to look up to me now. You've got to act a little – not different – but in a manner that you conduct yourself like you should."

Henningson, the Huskies and Co. assumed even more professional roles during a camp-ending autograph session.

"It's really nice for them to come and be here," said 11-year-old Drew Hahn, a Harter sixth-grader to be. "Because they can share about their life and information about football and also help us get better, too."

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?