The most important thing is it’s just a way for everyone to give back and just try to work for something that’s positive for these young men to go through. —Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake
LAYTON — College football coaches — representing programs from the junior college ranks to teams in the BCS — have descended on Davis County this week for the annual All Poly Camp. They’re here to lend a hand in putting approximately 400 future prospects through three days of instruction centering around “attitude, academics and athletics.”
Interest has grown over the 14 years since the camp was established. Coaches from Benedict (S.C.), Boise State, BYU, California, Hawaii, Indiana State, Lewis and Clark, Mesa Community College, Montana, Mount San Antonio (Calif.), Nevada, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Snow College, South Florida, Southern Utah, Stanford, UNLV, Utah, Utah State, Washington, Weber State and Wisconsin are among those participating this time around.
“We’re really excited that they’ve taken interest in the kids that we have coming in,” said Alema Te’o, camp founder and director.
The coaches, he added, appreciate the competitive edge and the high level of play. Besides showcasing Utah talent, the camp draws outside players as well. This year’s camp includes hopefuls from as far away as American Samoa and Florida.
Te’o said that they come here to get looked at by multiple institutions in hope of securing opportunities at all levels.
“Our main focal point is to promote higher education through football,” he said.
It’s all about exposure — and lots of it.
Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake likes how the most important aspect of the camp is getting the football players educated about academics. He appreciates that time on the first day is dedicated to bringing everyone up to speed on the NCAA clearinghouse. Sitake said many high school student-athletes don’t really understand how it works and what needs to be done to be eligible academically.
The All Poly Camp, which is open to all players, also includes guest lectures by community leaders and successful players. Thursday’s opening session featured remarks by former NFL lineman Edwin Mulitalo, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001.
“It’s for everybody and it’s benefitted a lot of people,” said Sitake, who acknowledged that a lot of college coaches have bought into it because it is something good — as is the talent pool. The latter, though, is secondary to the main mission.
“The most important thing is it’s just a way for everyone to give back and just try to work for something that’s positive for these young men to go through,” Sitake explained. “Anything that has to do with young men getting opportunities, especially with education, I’m all for. There are a lot of great coaches that are going to be here that are in the same boat.”
BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who has been with the camp since it was started, considers it a labor of love and a means to expose kids to opportunities.
“I don’t really look at this as an evaluation tool for recruiting. I don’t. Because I think if you do that you’re here for the wrong reason as a coach,” Anae said. “You lay it on the line because that’s what you do and you love what you do. It’s not work. If there’s an evaluation/recruiting element, that’s not the purpose.
“The purpose is to expose these kids to quality coaching, give them something to shoot for — what they’re looking for to become men,” he continued. “Football is the byproduct.”
BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi had similar thoughts.
“The reason I’m here is I want to give back and do a good deed,” he said. “I’ve played the game and I’ve coached, so why not come and help some young kids and help teach them.”
Kaufusi credits Te’o for doing a fantastic job in building the camp. He considers it a great opportunity for kids to work out, get better in their fundamentals and technique, plus compete against others.
Former Utah State and new Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen is also a big fan.
“I’ll always come back to this camp. It’s a great fit,” Andersen said before taking the field prior to the opening session. “Wisconsin kids are much like the kids in Utah. It’s a great fit for the young men in both spots. You want kids that work hard and are tough-minded and have some goals set in life.”
Andersen brought a couple of assistants with him, including former Utah defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a.
“It’s good for us to be here,” Andersen said. “We want to definitely recruit the country in a lot of different ways and No. 1 there’s a lot of great players here.”
The camp, he continued, has grown over the years — a credit to Te’o and his staff. Andersen said that players are coached successfully and it’s a great venue for evaluation at all levels of college football.
“This runs unbelievably well and it’s very professional,” Andersen said. “That’s why you have so many kids come back and at the end of the day have so many coaches come back and basically volunteer their time.”
There’s a growing track record of success on the field as well. Te’o, though, gives much of the credit to the players’ families and high schools.
“Those are the guys who develop those kids,” he said. “We’re just fortunate enough to have a venue to expose some of those guys that aren’t necessarily on the radar.”
Of the 115 seniors that attended last year’s camp, 85 wound up receiving scholarship offers, including approximately 45 at the Division I level.
The camp had four alums taken in this year’s NFL draft — Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei, Utah State running back Kerwynn Williams and Utah defensive end Joe Kruger.
Williams may be the best story in All Poly history. He was basically discovered at the camp. Alema Te’o recalled that the 5-foot-8 running back out of Las Vegas was deemed too short to play Division I football.
“Those are the type of kids who will benefit here,” Te’o said.
Williams wound up catching the attention of Ilaisa Tuiaki, who was coaching running backs at the camp. The Utah State assistant, who has since joined the staff at Utah, remembers the discovery well.
“He didn’t stick out as far as just the way he looked,” Tuiaki said. “He stuck out because nobody could tackle him and he was just making a lot of noise. There were a lot of oohs and aahs when he touched the ball, which really, really stuck out.”
Williams followed it up with a great senior year in high school and a record-setting career with the Aggies. He capped his four-year tenure in Logan as the Western Athletic Conference’s all-time leader in all-purpose yardage (6,928 yards) kickoff returns (3,408 yards).
“We didn’t know about him until here,“ Tuiaki said.
Williams went on to be drafted in the seventh round by the Indianapolis Colts.
“There are tons of good players that come out of here,” said Tuiaki, who is now the Utes’ defensive line coach. “It’s a camp that’s made a name for itself just by the kids that have signed places and kids that end up going big time and coming back.”
Although Tuiaki said it would be nice if the All Poly Camp were Utah’s little secret, the bottom line is more important.
“It’s great for the kids that all these coaches come,” he said.
The camp will conclude Saturday with a scrimmage at Layton’s Ellison Park (700 North 2200 West). Kickoff is set for 10 a.m.
Te’o gives it a pretty good billing, ranking it only behind the BYU-Utah rivalry when it comes to contests played within the state.
“Outside of that, the next best game is going to be the All Poly Camp scrimmage,” he said.