As the recent explosion in elite camps takes over the country, Ron Allen and Henry Bell look on with amusement.
The founders of the B2G Elite Football Program are no strangers to elite camps; they’ve been holding the premier camp on the West Coast since 2000.
Little did they know that their camp in Southern California would be one of the first to pop up around the country.
“Personally, I think it’s good for the game,” said Bell. “Ron and I had this discussion that we were like the pioneers. You had some invitation-only, but they were only combines and we weren’t the first to do them, but as far as our format, with the elite guys and no testing, we were one of the first. It was just us and Elite 11 at the time we started doing this. And I think it’s great for the sport. Because now elite athletes have programs they can go to get better, be challenged, and find out what they're really made of.
Allen too saw the rise in elite camps as good for the off-season overall.
“I personally feel that when you see more of what you’re doing popping up, it’s a compliment,” said Allen. “Competition brings out the best in you in business too. If we didn’t have anyone else to compete with, we might not have the same motivation to improve from year to year.”
The two former college defensive backs, Bell played at Purdue and Allen at UCLA, were once teammates at L.A. Valley College. After their careers concluded, with both being a part of bowl teams, they had the idea to start a football camp that would have no peer on the West Coast, and eventually none nationally. Further, they wanted to move away from the idea that it was just another camp or a combine in disguise. B2G's goal was to provide an elite program where every top football player in the West, as well as the rest of the nation, could spend four days during the summer adjusting to the level of competition they will face in college.
“When we started in 2000, we had no clue the impact we would have in the offseason. With the caliber of athletes around now, guys are getting bigger, faster, stronger, it’s good to see the best of the best getting the chance to go against each other,” said Allen.
Bell and Allen looked at the success of the summer basketball circuit, and saw that they could make something similar happen with football. It would be their chance to get the best players from around the West to matchup against each other and compete instead of just being tested.
“You look at all of the traditional offseason events for basketball like ABCD or even the AAU tournaments and the best players are spending a lot of time playing against each other. Guys get recognition based on how well they played against the best and not by their 40 yd dash time. With our camps, we've changed the way football camps were done,” said Bell.
B2G has also done a remarkable job launching unknown players into big junior and senior seasons, where the exposure came later and those prospects eventually earned scholarships to big-time programs.
“I think B2G created a great thing for sleepers, for guys who may not have gotten exposure otherwise, guys who may not have gone anywhere out of high school,” said Allen. “And those guys ended up getting scholarships to Notre Dame, UCLA and Washington. We both came from small high schools (Allen was at Oak Park, Bell at Montclair Prep) that didn’t play very many teams that attracted a lot of scouts. We wanted to go to big-time schools out of high school, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Scouts know that the best chance they have to evaluate a kid is when he plays against tough competition. It’s easy for kids in small schools to get overlooked."
Since 2000, B2G has produced over 120 players that have gone on to play major college football, 29 who were high school All-Americans, five who became college All-Americans and seven who have made the NFL.
Most notable was Steve Smith, the former Woodland Hills Taft receiver who went on to be an All-American at USC. Smith and his New York Giants teammates celebrated their win in Super Bowl 42, with Smith’s clutch reception on the final drive keeping the Giants chances alive.
“We looked back and remember when Steve came to our camp. He just had that fight in him that he was going to make it,” said Bell. “And now you see him years later, making the plays to win the Super Bowl. Obviously not every guy is going to make it to the NFL or win a Super Bowl, but he’s a guy we can look back on and be proud of.”
For every Steve Smith, the superstar high school player who everyone knows about, there is a player like Clarence Simpson, a relative unknown from Sylmar who’s big camp in 2002, where Smith was at, also launched his career.
“Me and Ron talk all the time about him,” said Bell. “Here’s a guy no one knew about and he comes to the camp and he’s just locking down guys and frustrating them because they thought they couldn’t beat him. And he’s not letting guys get open. Guys started to respect him right away and he ended up turning it into a scholarship to Washington.”
Two summers ago, a scrawny receiver from Crenshaw, who had just finished his sophomore year on a team that was loaded with players like Darian Hagan, Raymond Carter, R.J. Garrett and Brian Price, was beating the secondary all morning. The unknown player, Kemonte Bateman, then took a cleat to the face in the first workout. He came back, with stitches above his eye, and ended up being named the MVP of the A-Game, the flag football game that concludes the weekend.
By the time he was a senior, Bateman was an All-American, one of the top receivers in the country and one of the crown jewels in Arizona State’s recruiting class of 2008.
“That’s what you see every year at B2G. Players no one has heard of, who just need a chance to come out and shine, and they do,” said Allen. “A lot of these guys don’t get the challenge to go up against top kids, so this helps them with the transition and be able to play at the high level.”
Allen and Bell begin looking at the initial list of prospects in January. They spend time evaluating the players with the most college potential in the upcoming senior class, and then begin the invitation process. All this coming off the heels of a busy time of year for them, when they’ve been watching the previous summers participants play their final year of high school football and make a decision on where they’ll spend their college careers.
“We try to focus on players who can benefit from this kind of camp. Players that are special already but like every high school athlete, has some fine tuning to do to get ready for college,” said Allen. “And we invite some guys who just need the chance to show their stuff.”
The coaching staff at the program, which Bell and Allen comprise of former college players, is meticulous in their detail, focused on refining each skill.
“We always make them shoot for excellence. If you don’t do the little things in a drill, you start over. You knock cones down, you start over. It’s those little things that college coaches don’t let them get away with, and we want them to have the mindset that they’re not high school football players, they’re D-I players,” said Bell.
B2G will be hosting open workouts every Sunday at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA from 10-12:30, starting on April 27, 2008. Visit www.b2gsports.com or email email@example.com for more info.
Coming Next: The Players who’ve come to B2G and the Future of B2G.