The Great Park in Orange County hosted the Terry Donahue-inspired California Showcase on Saturday, a free mini-camp that saw 562 high school football seniors with grade-point averages of at least 2.5 or better come out to show their athleticism and skills before college recruiters for 66 schools.
If the players were as passionate as Donahue, the former UCLA coach, they would surely come away with some kind of scholarship.
"I have an affinity for kids who get left behind," said Donahue, a former college walk-on who runs the event in association with the National Football Foundation.
It's the fourth year of the California Showcase, designed for overlooked players with no Division I offers to be scouted by NAIA, Division II and III schools.
Almost 350 players have taken advantage of the showcase to move on to college and several million dollars in financial aid has been awarded, according to Donahue, who brings back his former assistants and players to serve as teachers and instructors.
It was almost a UCLA reunion on Saturday. There was Norm Andersen, Matt Stevens, Mike Sherrard, Aron Gideon _ all former Bruins. Greg Robinson, the former Syracuse coach and a former UCLA assistant, was giving firm directions.
Players dressed in red received special attention, because that alerted coaches that their GPAs were among the best in the group.
Isaiah Smith, a backup running back at Citrus Hill, ran one of the fastest 40-yard dashes in a hand-timed 4.38 seconds.
Donahue was determined to do his best to create an environment that allows the players and coaches a chance to meet and possibly lead to a college education.
"Opportunity is one of the most important gifts in life and how you respond when given opportunity and how often you can give it back to somebody else can define your whole existence," Donahue said.
"Football has been real good for me and my family and this event gives me a chance to give back to the community and give back the game of football that I love so much."
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