A chance too good to pass on

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — On an overcast Saturday morning, Steve Clarkson puts his pupils through their paces during the high-end quarterback camp for youth players that bears his name, all the while barking out instructions mixed with challenges.

“That’s not the corner,” the former L.A. Wilson High and San Jose State standout signal caller admonishes while drilling high school quarterbacks on lofting a perfectly-placed 30-yard pass into the corner of the end zone for a receiver in full stride. “Somebody show me the corner, show me you’re a gamer.”

Later, during a footwork drill focusing on rolling out of the pocket, Clarkson is again in the ear of each camper.

“Not everyone can do this,” he reminds all within earshot. “I want to see who can.”

For the roughly 100 youth football players assembled on the Glendale Community College football field for the two-day Steve Clarkson Quarterback Academy over the past weekend, participating in the camp’s skills clinics under Clarkson’s watchful eye can be as much an audition as a learning experience.

“That’s what we do,” Clarkson said during the camp’s lunch break on Saturday. “We will find kids that we think have that special trait and we will encourage them to go forth.

“It’s not that we discourage the others, it’s just that there’s some that we feel are a little more gifted than others and we tend to gravitate toward each other to make it happen.”

Clarkson has certainly demonstrated over his career that he can make things happen for a player in which he sees potential.

He has spent over 20 years developing quarterbacks for college and the NFL, both through his signature Air-7 camps and through his highly sought after services as a private tutor.

His client list includes current NFL starters Matt Leinart, Ben Roethlisberger and J.P. Losman and he also mentored former Oaks Christian product Jimmy Clausen, who moved on to Notre Dame University last season as the top-rated prep quarterback in the nation.

The Glendale college event was the kickoff of a partnership between the Pasadena-based DeBartolo Sports University and Clarkson, in which the two will collaborate to produce a series of Clarkson-brand camps in different cities over the spring and summer.

“This is the very first Steve Clarkson Academy and it’s the first event for the DeBartolo Sports University,” said Donald Engstrom, Director of Operations for DeBartolo Sports University, which was founded by former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr. “It’s kind of a milestone for us.”

According to Engstrom, Glendale college was chosen for the event because of its close proximity to the University’s center of operations and because of the quality of the facility.

“My son went to college here for his first two years of school and he had a relationship here,” said Clarkson, who also lives in Pasadena. “It’s a great, great facility and we had to have field turf. ...It’s worked out beautifully and the coaches here have been phenomenal.”

Under the supervision of Clarkson and his staff of assistant coaches, the camp was divided between physical drills and lessons and time spent in classrooms learning how to break down film and how to read defensive coverages.

Joining the scores of attendants that included marquee names such as future University of Southern California recruit Matt Barkley of Santa Ana Mater Dei and players from as far away as Boston, was a sprinkling of local representation.

Crescenta Valley junior Karson Reedy attended the camp at the recommendation of Falcons Coach Tony Zarillo.

“I heard good things and my coach said it would be a good learning experience for my first year playing quarterback,” said Reedy, who will make a position switch from linebacker for his senior year. “We’re running a spread offense [next year], so I’m out here trying to learn as much as I can.

“It’s great — they’re doing a lot of drills and stuff that I would expect to do in college and higher levels. It should get you better for high school.”

Clarkson has also developed a reputation for identifying and cultivating younger talent, and while the camp ranged in age up to high school seniors, there were plenty of pre-teens on hand Saturday to get an early start on absorbing some lessons.

“We heard about it on TV and it sounded fun,” said 12-year old Ty Gangi, a Glendale resident who plays quarterback for the La Cañada Gladiators. “[It could help me] go on to college and play at a higher level.”

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