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A chance to give back


Joe Cullen&39;s motivation was simple.

And it certainly wasn&39;t money, or notoriety, that had the Jaguars&39; defensive line coach at Atlantic Coast High School in Jacksonville on consecutive nights this week.

Cullen, in his second season with the Jaguars, said the reason he and several Jacksonville high school coaches -- as well as former Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer – braved varying weather this week was more simple.

It was the right thing to do. And there was much to be gained from doing it.

"It's an opportunity to give something back," Cullen said of his Joe Cullen Big Man Camp, a free two-day clinic for high school offensive and defensive linemen held Monday and Tuesday at Atlantic Coast in Jacksonville.

"The kids don't have to pay anything, and we like to do it in the city where we're (coaching). Most of the camps today, you have to pay an arm and a leg and most of the time, you don't get any coaching. You go to a college camp and there's 500 kids and you don't get any coaching unless you're an elite guy.

"It's a good way to get out in the community, get to now the coaches and let them know you're there for them."

Cullen and the assembled coaches worked extensively with about 60-to-70 high school offensive and defensive linemen for about four hours Tuesday afternoon – this, a day after the scheduled first day was  shortened by the heavy afternoon storms Monday.

"Any time you can get the lineman extra work, I think it's very important," Atlantic Coast Football Coach Kevin Sullivan, a long-time high school coach in the state of Florida, said. "Especially from a guy who a lot of people think is one of the best defensive line coaches in the country, it's just tremendous for those kids to get an opportunity to get out and get some stuff that we as high school coaches are teaching reiterated about some things.

"When Joe called me, I was like, 'Yes, definitely we'll do it. No problem.' It's good for our guys, because we're starting our program. We think we do a pretty good job coaching our kids, but to get them exposed to other things, hopefully it will reiterate some things that we think are important."

Sullivan said when it comes to players, the presence – and the words – of an NFL coach "opens their eyes."

"We can say it over and over again, but when an NFL coach talks about character and doing the right thing, it reiterates it," Sullivan said. "I believe in exposing the kids to as many things as we can, so this is a great thing."

Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio spoke to the campers Monday, with former Jaguars defensive end Jeff Lageman addressing the group Tuesday.

"The big thing is to give something back to the kids in terms of fundamentals of the game, but also give them a message in terms of football skills and life skills try to combine both of them," Cullen said. "We're trying to get the basic fundamentals across to them. People forget about stance. They forget about explosion off the ball. They forget about hand placement as an offensive lineman in the run game. They forget about pass sets. Basically, we&39;re trying to give the key fundamental tools at each position without putting any pads on."

Cullen said, too, dealing with high school players is a way to remember a different, simpler approach to football.

"You get back to the true roots of why you&39;re coaching," Cullen said. "You want to have an impact on someone&39;s life, and you like someone to really appreciate the work that you do."

The players who attend the camp are there because they want to be, which Cullen said also brings the camp a refreshing perspective.

"In today&39;s world, kids are challenged in a lot of different ways," he said. "There&39;s technology. They have things we didn&39;t have growing up. They have cell phones. A lot of them are working, but for them to give up their time to come and learn and get structure for two days is great.

"It&39;s anywhere from 90-95 degrees and football&39;s not an easy game. It says  something about them for them to give up their time and go out there. The core values we learned are still there with young players. They want to learn, they want to get better and they want to have fun.

"That&39;s what we&39;re trying to accomplish." 

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