St. Petersburg Times
Former Florida State star quarterback Chris Weinke will team with NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden in launching and running a new youth football camp and training center – the IMG Academy football program – in Bradenton.
Weinke, who led the Seminoles to an undefeated season and the 1999 national championship team and then won the 2000 Heisman Trophy, will be the academy’s director.
“I’m confident we will serve as the premier location to help players improve their game and maximize their potential (on and off the field),’’ he said. “I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity. My goal will be to bring in teachers to be able to help the kids learn the game from the ground up and learn the right way, the proper techniques and fundamentals, but most importantly, to have fun. That’s really what this game is all about. As a former player, that was what was most important to me, to have fun.’’
Throughout his stellar FSU career, which didn’t begin until he left professional baseball after a seven-year stint, Weinke served as a coach on the field. He had a knowledge of the game, a solid grounding in the fundamentals and a tireless work ethic.
“Sometimes people forget, I left high school to play professional baseball,’’ he said. “I did not pick up a football. Seven years later, I had no idea if I was going to be able to play the game. I had to re-teach myself to play the game. Then my first year starting (1998), I broke my neck and lost all strength in my right arm, which meant I had to re-teach myself to throw a football. I believe because of that injury, I was able to learn more of the basic fundamentals of the quarterback position than I would have if I hadn’t gotten hurt.’’
When he stopped playing in the NFL, after the 2007 season, many folks told him he should become a coach. He had a passion for it, but he wasn’t ready.
“In the back of my mind I said, “I don’t want to be a coach yet, I still want to be a player,’ ‘’ he said. “But reality set in. I’m happy to be a coach now and I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead here.’’
He and Madden will bring in former NFL and college coaches to help the kids. (Madden mentioned an offensive lineman like an Anthony Munoz or a kicker like Morten Andersen or Martin Gramatica.) Although Weinke has helped youngsters, primarily quarterbacks, and spent some time at FSU spring and fall practices of late, he hasn’t coached and will look to learn and master that skill set.
“My focus as the director, as we work with the kids, will be to share my first-hand experience,’’ he said. “Be able to tell the kids what I had to go through, some of the ups and downs and struggles. Mentorship will be a huge part of it.’’
The Academy will begin with Kickoff Weekend – a June 4-6 camp for all position players nationwide, ages 10-18. Position-specific camps, both weekly and for the full summer, will continue throughout the year. For more information, go to www.imgacademy.com/sports/football.