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Griz players help run Ronan football camp

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RONAN — Several current and former University of Montana Grizzlies football players assisted in Ronan High School’s summer football camp this year. 

The camp is in it’s second year and comprised players from Plains, Thompson Falls, Eureka, Bigfork, Deer Lodge and two teams from Idaho — Wendell and Sugar-Salem.

“It went really well,” said Ronan football coach Jim Benn. “I’m pleased with what I’m seeing and the quality of the teams that are here and the character of the kids. It’s always a good opportunity to learn — even for the coaches.”

The camp included full contact scrimmages, seven-on-seven receiver, quarterback and defensive back drills and an NFL Combine-style day. The combine tested everything from vertical jump to bench press and the 40-yard dash. Griz players were present for the combine day, helping local athletes with their technique. 

“They actually came out and took over the whole day,” said Ronan assistant coach Hazeez Rafiu. “They did everything. They showed our guys how to run faster 40s, how to jump higher for the vertical ... a couple of those guys are supposed to be getting invited to the NFL Combine next year and going into the next draft, so it was good to have them around. The kids really enjoyed it.”

Benn said having the Grizzly players on hand definitely brought the level of combine testing up for his athletes. 

“I think it went really well and I’m really pleased with it,” he said. “I got really good feedback from the players and coaches, and I think we’re set up really well for the season. We’ve got the pieces of the puzzle, we just have to put them together now.”

Coming off a tough season last year, Ronan athletes said the biggest difference from last year to this season is the senior leadership. 

“We have a big, good senior crew this year,” Connor Benn said. “We’ll be good and we’re going to go far ... it’s just the way our seniors act, the motivation. Last year, our seniors — it seemed like they didn’t want to be here. All our seniors are motivated this year. They put the time in, they’re committed and they want it.”

At this, junior Ron Cullis chimed in with, “We have more leadership this year compared to last year: Getting kids up, helping them through everything, trying to get them to get bigger in the weight room.”

As far as having several active college athletes bound for the NFL Draft on hand during the camp, all players said it was a great experience and the Griz helped out tremendously. 

“It was pretty neat to see them,” Benn said. “We’ve been to a couple camps with those guys and they really help us out a lot.”

Junior Tanner Mead said the camp was a good barometer to see where the rest of team was at as far as skill level after the long winter, adding that he and his fellow linemen had a pool going to see which of them would run the fastest. 

“I lost, obviously,” Mead said with a laugh. “But we got our little guys to see where they are, and with our freshman coming up, it was good for them — give them a chance to learn on the ropes.”

Coach Benn said one of the best parts about camp is having the opportunity to try some young players out in different positions, “and watch them thrive.”

“Three or four sophomores really impressed us. They’re sophomores coming out of being freshman, and we’re looking for that guy to rise up a bit, and a couple of our seniors are really impressing me,” he said. “We’re going to have a good, positive year. We have great leadership coming back and that’s a huge step in the right direction for us.”


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