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Chargers linebacker English returns to roots with camp at Marmion

Chargers linebacker Larry English talks kids his free football camp held his almmater MarmiAurorFriday. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

Chargers linebacker Larry English talks to kids at his free football camp held at his alma mater Marmion in Aurora on Friday. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 10, 2011 8:38AM

St. Rita eighth grader John Bird of Aurora and Geneva freshman Marcus Crescenzo both agreed, they’d recommend Larry English’s football camp to friends.

“I’ve been to a couple of football camps, but just to meet the professional and college players and see how they work was worth it,” said Bird.

“Yeah, it was fun,” said Crescenzo. “I’ve never had my 40 time recorded before.”

Both youngsters were among the nearly 250 campers age 12 to 18 who attended the free camp hosted by the third-year San Diego Chargers linebacker and friends on a bright sunny Friday morning at Marmion Academy.

“We wanted to let everyone get a chance,” said English, whose foundation delegated openings to area schools and sought nominations of campers from administrators and athletic directors.

“Obviously, we can’t take everyone in the whole city but over the next few years we’ll be able to get close to that,” said English, who hopes to make it an annual event.

His Larry English L.E.A.D. (Leading Education to Athletes for Their Dreams) Foundation hopes to empower young athletes with advanced programming in education, professional development and mentoring to prepare them to reach their goals on and off the field.

The camp was one of three events English hosted this weekend to boost L.E.A.D. He hosted a networking fund raising event for NFL players Friday night and a Saturday brunch for prospective business and corporate sponsors, both at a Chicago restaurant.

Divided into age groups, the campers rotated among six workout stations, spending 30 minutes at each where they received instruction for various football positions or were given speed and conditioning tips and drills. They also received nutrition information and got to have a Q-and-A with English, the former Cadet and first-round draft choice out of Northern Illinois University.

Much of the instruction was handled by Dan Thorpe and his Marmion Academy staff assisted by 18 players from the current NIU roster. Former NIU players like RB Chad Spann and WR Landon Cox, who are hoping for an end to the NFL lockout so they can get an opportunity as free agents, were also on hand as were former Huskies with pro ties like ex-Bear RB Garrett Wolfe and Denver WR Britt Davis.

“Will there be a (NFL) season this year?” was the question most often asked of English.

“There will be,” he said with conviction, but was quick to add he couldn’t predict when.

“It’s one of those things you gotta let work itself out, whether it’s in the courts or bargaining table,” he continued. “Right now, I’m just concentrating on getting better as a player and making sure I’m healthy and being ready for whenever it is. That’s the thing that’s most important.”

This is being cited by many observers as a make-or-break year for English, who was a surprise first-round pick when he was taken 16th by the Chargers. A foot injury and surgery just three weeks into the season last year limited his playing time. This spring he had to have a second surgery on his left foot.

“I’m not quite running yet but I’m about 2 or 3 weeks from being cleared and ready to go,” he said. “I’ll be ready in time for everything (when the lockout ends).

“I don’t know about (the lockout being) a blessing. It is what it is. It’s come hand-in-hand with me trying to rest and get things healthy.”

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