Birmingham Bowl presents ProStart Academy youth football clinic

Former National Football League and college football players challenged about 100 young athletes on the gridiron this morning.Parker High School hosted the annual community outreach training day for the Birmingham Bowl."The past several years we have teamed with NCAA football to put on a free youth football skills clinic in Birmingham," bowl executive director Mark Meadows said."NCAA football decided not to continue the program, so we teamed up this year with ProStart Academy."The Alabama-based ProStart helps train players athletically and academically. Former Cincinnati Bengals player Gary Burley, who was on the team that won the AFC championship and played in Super Bowl XVI, founded ProStart to help enhance what young players learn from their school and recreation league coaches."Basic fundamentals. we're not trying to teach them how to be all pro or anything like that. We want to teach them how to tackle, how to run the proper pass routes, how to be a pass rusher, how to be a pass defender, the whole nine yards," Burley said.He was thrilled to get the call to be involved with the training clinic for the Birmingham Bowl."We were approached by the world leader in sports, ESPN, about developing an outreach program for their bowl game."The ProStart coaching team includes players from the recent national championship-winning teams at Alabama and Auburn, as well as some NFL and Canadian Football League players Burley met over the years."These are guys that have been there and done it. Although these kids are younger and probably don't remember these guys when they were on the playing field, these guys are trying to teach life lessons," Meadows said."Trying to talk about maybe some mistakes that they made when they were in college or in the pros, and trying to warn these kids that hey, get your education, stay out of trouble, do what you're supposed to do and everything will be great."A current Samford player also helped out Saturday, which got the attention of seventh grader Antonio Bailey."I thought it was a great opportunity {to participate in the clinic}. I heard one of the coaches said he play for Samford right now, and that's the place where I want to be," Bailey said."It just keeps you energized, it keeps you out of trouble, and it's just a fun sport," he said about football.The free clinic was open to children ages eight to 13, and lasted from 8 a.m. to noon. Bailey hopes his extra effort Saturday will give him a boost as he plays middle school football this fall."You want to be better than the other team. You can't let the other team beat you at your own game," he said.Every participant also receives tickets to the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, which will be January 3 at Legion Field. Tickets for the game between teams from the Southeastern Conference and American Athletic Conference go on sale September 1."Later this fall we're going to be doing a high school career symposium with the city school system and then later on, around our bowl game, we'll be doing a high school coaches' clinic," Meadows said.