Chris Svarczkopf, Bishop Dwenger’s longtime football coach, had a favor to ask of a pal: Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Mike Elston.
Elston heard the pitch about appearing at Jason Baker’s Pro Football Mini Camp on Friday and knew he should come to the Summit City for the event.
"Any time he asks me to do anything, I’m quick to say yes," Elston said. "Fort Wayne has been very good to Notre Dame with the players we’ve gotten out of the city of Fort Wayne, so it’s always great to give back to a community that’s done so much for us."
Baker, who holds a coaches clinic as part of the event every year at Wayne, not only drew Elston to speak but also four others on the Irish staff: director of player development Ron Powlus, special assistant to the head coach Bob Elliott, assistant strength coach Jeff Quinn and defensive graduate assistant Harlan Bower.
"We want good coaches to come in and share," Baker said. "It’s great when good coaches are also a part of high-profile (college) programs."
A few years ago, the Ball State staff under coach Pete Lembo spoke at the clinic.
"They were awesome," Baker said. "But people would not probably view Ball State as some national powerhouse and some huge draw. We tend to focus more on what’s being said and their posture toward our (area attendee) coaches, and then by the way, if you happen to be part of a really cool program, that’s cool, too."
Baker’s theme is all about having coaches teach more than just the X’s and O’s.
"Even if you’ve played it until you were 35 years old like I did, it’s still just a vehicle," Baker said. "Football is awesome. There are so many things you learn. The sport part is awesome. But there are so many things applicable to life after it that you don’t get in other environments. It’s hard to teach real accountability in the classroom. On the field, doing your tasks successfully impacts the outcome of 10 other guys’ success, counting on you to do your own job."
At the clinic Friday was Jeff Duke, a former assistant to legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and author of the "3Dimensional Pyramid of Coaching Success" theorem.
"Jeff’s whole message is to be very intentional about taking advantage of your opportunity to impact that child for post-athletic life," Baker said. "It’s a biblically based ministry. Everybody that has ever played is eventually in post-athletic life. I am. That is the core of why we’re really here as a coach. That is the third dimension of coaching, really getting into the mind, heart and body of the athlete."
Elston shares that view of football building character.
"It prepares a young man for adversity in life," Elston said. "You’re going to have tough times in football. That is a challenge in life, also. Guys that are champions on the field have a great correlation to how they have to preserve in life."