By Gabriel Stovall
STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — Randy Moss and the dozen campers that participated in this past weekend’s Randy Moss Academy receivers camp shared one major commonality.
They were all drenched in Georgia summer-induced sweat on the turf of the Stockbridge football field before 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning, as temperatures pushed 90 degrees before 10:00 a.m.
“It was definitely pretty hot out there, so it made it kind of tough at times,” said camp participant Yusuf Corker.
Corker is a defensive back from Stockbridge’s cross town rival Woodland. He was the only defensive back present at the camp, but he said he gained just as much from the instruction as his wide receiver counterparts.
“It felt great to be out there,” said Corker, who as a rising junior has already been offered scholarships from the likes of Auburn, Clemson, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Kentucky among others.
“It was unbelievable to get that one-on-one instruction time with Randy Moss. There weren’t that many kids out there, so we were really able to get that time in. Not too many people can say that.”
Participants in this past weekend’s Academy knew the caliber of player they had coming to stand before them.
They knew about Randy Moss, the former NFL star, nicknamed “The Freak” because of his uncanny ability to maneuver his 6-foot-5 frame in ridiculous ways to make plays on balls that other formidable receivers couldn’t even dream of.
They were well acquainted with his single-season NFL record for touchdown receptions, and his 15,000-plus career receiving yardage. No one had to inform them that he holds the distinction as perhaps one of the best to ever play the position.
That’s why they were so shocked at the kind of personal attention they received.
“Yeah, I was surprised,” Corker said. “I thought he was just gonna come out there and say hey, and leave. The fact that he stayed out there and worked out with us, it was just crazy.”
Stockbridge senior wideout Demetrius Sullivan echoed similar sentiments.
“When they said it was a Randy Moss camp, I didn’t think we were really going to get the chance to work out with him,” Sullivan said. “I just figured he would be out there sitting under an umbrella in the stands.”
That definitely wasn’t the case.
From the beginning, Moss was hands on with the campers, showing them moves, modeling techniques and barking out instruction as well as encouragement to his young understudies.
When the campers would do drills, Moss would lead off the order and work the drill himself as though he was the one receiving the instruction. It left a huge impression on Sullivan.
“I think the thing I got most from him was just to never give up and to do everything at full speed,” Sullivan said. “Every drill counts, and it will all get you were you want to be at the end of the day, and that’s playing college football. He really taught us to believe in yourself.”
The “give it your all” spiel isn’t just rhetoric for Sullivan, either. It falls lockstep in line with the uptick in urgency he feels to achieve even as he bounces back from an injury that left him sidelined for much of his junior season.
“I was out most of the year because of a sprained AC joint in my shoulder,” Sullivan said. “I dove out for a ball and (former Stockbridge defensive back) Jarius Shade landed on top of me. I had to go to the hospital and couldn’t get back into real action for a while, so yeah, I’m excited. I’ve got a certain fire in me for the season coming up. It’s my senior year.”
Sullivan’s bookend teammate Marquez Ezzard said he feels that same push, even as he moves into just his second season at Stockbridge.
Ezzard, in his first year of playing receiver, led the 2014 Class AAAAA semifinalist Tigers in receiving with 45 catches and over 600 yards. Not bad, considering he plays in Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley’s triple option style offense.
Ezzard called the camp an eye opening experience that’s made him hungry to reach for more in 2015.
“(Moss) taught me a lot. It was a really good experience,” Ezzard said. “The part I liked is when we were doing drills, and then we were doing hands on stuff and he was hands on. I was definitely surprised that he was so hands on with us, but it was a good thing. It makes me want to get even better to help my team this season.”
Both receivers said they were happy about the emphasis on blocking schemes and techniques on the perimeter to uncork a team’s running game.
“It was great, because I love to block as much as I love to catch passes,” Ezzard said.
“I’m not upset at how much we throw or with the amount we throw in our offense,” Sullivan added. “I just play the game. One thing people don’t understand is that receivers can go to college too off of their ability to excel in blocking.”
And for Corker, he saw the other side of it. As a defensive back, he had the chance to work against receivers — including Moss — in a way that sharpened him like he hadn’t been sharpened before in a camp.
“Randy showed me some of the techniques that wide receivers do to try to get space and get open,” Corker said. “He showed me how I can use my hands and feet to be more aggressive, and just some techniques on how to stop receivers from doing what they want to do.
“It was pretty hard because I was the only DB out there, but this camp really compares to none other I’ve been apart of. Being able to go one-on-one with the best receiver to ever play in the NFL, that alone makes this camp above everything else.”