An estimated 500 aspiring high school football players from around Arizona will soon swarm into Payson where they will train during five days of grueling practices, weight lifting sessions, passing league play and conditioning drills.
Set to participate July 18 to July 22 in the Payson Summer Football Camp are athletes representing Mesa Red Mountain, Casa Grande, Kingman, Miami, Tucson Canyon del Oro and Payson.
PHS coach Bryon Quinlan said he is expecting Red Mountain to bring a whopping 200-plus players.
Although official numbers of attendees at previous Payson football summer camps have not been kept, the 2011 camp is expected to be the largest ever.
Since taking over as football coach a year ago, Quinlan said his goal is to build the summer camp into one of the largest in the state and also attract some of Arizona’s best teams, similar to what his father, Jim, did during his tenure as PHS basketball coach.
Under Jim Quinlan, the summer hoop camp drew many Class 5A “big school” teams including Mesa Mountain View, Tucson Amphitheater and Shadow Mountain.
A handful of those players went on to careers in Division I and professional basketball including Mike Bibby of the Miami Heat.
Early this week, Byron Quinlan penned a letter to the head coaches of the five schools attending the football camp explaining procedures and the calendar.
In it, he wrote, “Call me, if you have any special requests, I want this to be a camp you will enjoy and want to come back to in the future.”
During camp week, players will sleep on cots, air mattresses, bunks and makeshift beds each player brings from home.
They will bed down in Wilson Dome, Rim Country Middle School gymnasium and old Payson High School gymnasium.
During the day, each school’s head coach is responsible for outlining practice sessions, but Quinlan will schedule times the teams may use the weight room.
Practices are usually “three-a-days” with a different focus on each session.
During the evening, usually under the lights at Rumsey Park or Longhorn Field, all six teams will get together for round robin 7-on-7 passing league games.
For those, teams will have two fields — one for varsity competition and the other for younger freshmen and jayvee games.
“We are looking forward to having some good competition in the evening,” said Quinlan.
Also in the evening or late afternoon hours, coaches will have the option to take their players to Taylor Pool, bowling or possibly the movies.
Among the biggest changes Quinlan has made besides increasing the number of teams attending the camp, is an attempt to give the visitors, as well as the Payson players, a taste of the Rim Country cuisine.
“We will have some great meals for you guys,” he wrote in the letter to coaches.
Those will include deep pit slow roasted beef cooked up by acclaimed cowboy cook Albert Hunt, fry bread tacos from Sophie Davis and smoked brisket of beef by Rod Rockman who, Quinlan says, won several cooking contests in his home state of Iowa.
Also Pizza Factory and Gerardo’s Italian Bistro are slated to serve meals, as will the cross country/track, boys soccer and wrestling teams, who have agreed to do so as a fund-raiser for their sports programs.
Steve Perry at Pepsi Cola is helping furnish beverages and in the evening hours the Longhorn cheerleaders will run a concession stand where campers can purchase snacks.
While football will be the focus of the week, the campers usually benefit from some intangibles such as making new friends and becoming more self-reliant.
Once the season starts, many of the campers will periodically check on state results to see how other teams at the camp are faring and how individuals they met are performing.
With most all the planning now completed, Quinlan is eagerly anticipating the start of sessions convinced, “this will be one of the best team camps around.”