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Freeport football preps for 'boot camp'

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Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, 12:20 a.m.

Freeport football players will learn two words next week: Semper fidelis.

The Yellowjackets are taking a somewhat extreme yet patriotically unique approach to conditioning workouts and team bonding, bringing in Marine Corps members to conduct a four-day “Big Dog Boot Camp” at the high school's practice field.

The name was the brainchild of running back Damon Smith. The drills, which range from chin-ups to in-unison jogs to group humvee pulls, will be courtesy of the military.

“The Marines are big on discipline, and we like to think the same way,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “Nothing is given and, if you want something, you have to earn it. I want them to explain discipline to our players.”

A pair of Freeport grads, with the help of six Marine recruiters, will introduce a scaled-down version of boot camp, running players through drills and challenging them to finish what they've started. Although it will be grueling, it won't be Marine rigorous.

Think “Remember the Titans,” not “Full Metal Jacket.”

The players who finish camp, which runs Monday through Thursday, beginning at 7 a.m. each day — will get a red T-shirt that shows a Marine bulldog wearing a Freeport Yellowjacket tattoo. The highlight will be pulling two humvees across the high school parking lot.

“We want to do some of the things we did in boot camp, but we asked ourselves, how do we make it unique?” said Marine Capt. Don Roenigk, a Freeport grad who will help conduct the event. “We want to concentrate on uniformity, and we want them to take pride in what they're doing. We want to sit down and talk about honor, courage and commitment.”

Roenigk said Freeport assistant Todd Durand introduced the idea. Durand attended an education event this spring at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C.

Gaillot expects 45 to 55 players to attend the voluntary workout, which won't replace evening conditioning sessions.

“They'll have to come back later to lift,” he said. “When I first started here, there was a group of kids who were all ‘yes sir, no sir' kids. We want that to continue in our program.”

Former Freeport running back Cam Betush, a Marine Corporal, also will lead drills. Betush has plenty of stories to tell: He survived the explosion of a homemade bomb in Afghanistan and later earned a Purple Heart.

There will be minimal contact and no hitting. WPIAL practices officially open Aug. 13.

“We'll have the same intensity of instruction, but it will be a little different,” Roenigk said. “We'll do circuit training in small groups. It will be non-stop exercise for two to five minutes at a time. They will be pushed to exhaustion. There won't be any swearing, and it's not made to hurt or upset anybody.”

Freeport players are expecting the worst but are up for anything.

“I think it's a great idea. It will test us mentally and physically as a team,” junior receiver/defensive back Josh Brestensky said.

Senior quarterback Brendan Lynch said the camp will reveal character.

“It's pretty much where we are going to separate the men from the boys,” he said. “We can expect some tough activities while maintaining discipline because they will get in our faces. It will be a great experience and perfect preparation for the season.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or

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