Penn State coaches also present at summer session
DeKALB – Fresh off a water break midway through Northern Illinois’ final high school summer camp, Sycamore’s Jason Hayes rushed to his position group. He was first in line to begin the next drill.
With coaches from 10-plus programs in attendance Monday evening, including NIU and Penn State, Hayes was eager to show off his skills. He attempted to execute each drill with poise and confidence inside the Chessick Practice Center.
Hayes, a junior at Sycamore, admitted he was nervous approaching his first college football camp. Afterward, he labeled his performance at NIU a success.
[Photos by Mary Beth Nolan for Shaw Media]
“I love seeing all the other competition out there,” Hayes said. “It drives me to be the best. Even though it was my first camp, I felt like I belonged.
“This is my home area, I’ve got to defend it.”
Hayes was one of the few local athletes in attendance at the camp, which featured 100-plus players from around the Midwest.
This summer was the second consecutive year Penn State coach James Franklin attended an NIU football camp. Huskies coach Rod Carey is hopeful Penn State’s presence in DeKalb will continue moving forward.
“We always enjoy hosting these camps,” Carey said. “We like having Penn State. It’s been a good partnership. I hope it continues – I think it will. James and I both like it and we get a good atmosphere and a good turnout for it.”
Monday marked the final camp of six summer sessions hosted by NIU. A handful of Huskie players were in attendance checking out the influx of talent, including Sutton Smith, Marcus Childers and Kyle Pugh.
“There are a lot of camps now a days, not just ours – there are a lot all over,” Carey said. “So you get a lot of kids that are camped out. But the overall talent has been really good at this camp and others.
“We always reach out to all the local places because that’s part of community outreach and recruiting. We love doing that.”
For Hayes, he wanted to absorb as much as he could at his first camp. Last season, he played both ways as a tight end and outside linebacker.
“There are a huge amount of coaches here,” Hayes said. “Players from so far are here to see you, it’s not just NIU since I’m local. You can’t replicate that experience.”
Sycamore football coach Joe Ryan said Hayes continues to progress during the offseason. The two-sport athlete has added ‘plenty of muscle’ his 6-foot, 185-pound frame, Ryan said. Throughout the summer, Hayes said he enjoys having extra workouts inside Sycamore’s weight room and at the local YMCA.
Hayes played a majority of his sophomore season with his peers, but made his first varsity appearance during the DeKalb-Sycamore game. As a sophomore, he also made the varsity basketball team.
“I think he’s got some great athleticism to go with his size,” Ryan said of Hayes. “He’s starting to get bigger and bigger. ... He’s a long way from playing his best football. He works extremely hard and should be a key piece in the future.”