Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Special athletes get special Aggie football clinic

Yanchu Zhao plows through a tackling pylon during drills with UCD defensive linemen at a special camp held in January, 2011. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

From page B1 | April 01, 2012 |

Think back to this time last year…

Spring football was in the air, and for most Aggies, it was the first time they put their jerseys on.

There were tackling drills, receivers ran crisp routes, quarterbacks threw deep and chalk talks were given to aspiring athletes.

Those involved ranged in age from teens to 55 and no one…

What? A 55-year-old UC Davis player? Well, kinda…

This was the inaugural clinic for special-needs adults — Team Davis participants of Special Olympics fame.

Hosted by the university football team and presented by UCD Campus and Recreation Unions, the event was so popular among football players and those taking advantage of the instruction that it has been expanded to involve Special Olympics teams from Woodland, Natomas and Sacramento.

This spring’s clinic will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Aggie Stadium.

“It was a great experience for our players last year,” Aggie head football coach Bob Biggs says. “Our kids get as much out it as these special athletes do.

“Last year I just asked for volunteers and everyone who could, showed up. It would be hard to be more enthusiastic than they were last year, but after having experienced it, I think they will be.”

On a brilliant spring afternoon, more than 70 UCD players and Campus Recreation staff and student volunteers ran the athletes through seven stations of learning — some of the stops requiring helmets or pads, each attended by Aggie athletes who brought new-found enthusiasm to their time with the Team Davis members.

“We did this last year for Team Davis only and every single one of our athletes who participated had a great time,” remembers Laura Hall, associate director of campus recreation and unions.

By opening the event to other cities, Hall hopes as many as 150 special-needs athletes will take advantage of the afternoon of football.

Fans are invited to watch from the stands as up to four separate scrimmages will follow the clinic. Intramural sports volunteers will serve as referees while Aggie players supervise the action.

“This gives our players and staff a chance to make this a special day for these kids,” Biggs adds. “Our players realize how fortunate they are to be in a position to be able to give back.

“It is a great experience. It shows them that when they leave Davis and go off to their adult lives (how important) the need for volunteering is.”

Biggs praises Hall, who also serves as a Team Davis board member, for the work she does in “bringing so much joy” to everyone involved.

Biggs’ Aggies work hard themselves in giving back.

Not only are the local footballers involved in this second clinic, they visit area elementary schools during the year and work with the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Sacramento. Aggies players also work on behalf of the Wine to Water Project, which raises funds to bring clean water to Third World countries.

Notes: Biggs enters his 20th — and final season — at the Aggie helm. “I’m savoring every moment,” he says, noting that even 5 a.m. winter workouts, which he viewed as a “necessary evil,” are things he is reflecting on “as the last time I get to do this.” He says this last time around is “feeling pretty special.” … UC Davis opens its spring football camp April 10. For five weeks, workouts will take place Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays before the annual Blue and Gold Game.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8047.



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