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      U.P. Football Players visit Bay Cliff

      Courtesy: Todd Goldbeck - Xcel Sports Training

      Thursday afternoon the All-Star players and coaches travelled to Bay Cliff Health Camp, located in Big Bay with some help from Checker Bus. Bay Cliff is a non-profit therapy and wellness center for children ages 3-17, who have physical disabilities. The primary summer camp is seven weeks, and focuses on children with orthopedic, speech, vision and hearing disabilities. The children work towards goals of increased independence and living a fuller life.

      The players and coaches were taken in two large coach buses, provided by Checker Bus. â??We really could not make the trip to Bay Cliff without the help of Checker Busâ??, stated Todd Goldbeck, All-Star Game organizer. â??Having local businesses support the activities we perform throughout All-Star Week is so important to our success and what we are able to do.â??

      Once the players arrived, they took their turn as coaches when they split up into different stations and showed the Bay Cliff campers football drills and skills. The campers were very excited to be interacting in such a fun and personal way with the players. Seeing the uninhibited campers beaming with smiles as they played football with the All-Star players is something that words simply cannot describe.

      They received handoffs from the quarterbacks and made their way through a tunnel of players to the â??endzoneâ??, where they practiced their celebration dances. Other groups showed the campers how to throw and catch or kickoff, while others held big pads and let the campers run up and â??hitâ?? or block them. No matter what the campersâ?? physical ability, the players worked with them so they were able to get the feel of what it is like to practice football.

      In addition to the football drills, campers were given All-Star Game programs, which have the playersâ?? pictures and profiles. They were able to go around to as many All-Star players as they could and get autographs. It was quite a thrill for everyone involved.

      After the football portion was complete, the Bay Cliff campers invited the players to join them for dinner, which gave the players a glimpse into the routine of meal time. It seems that sometimes big strong high school football players should be eating out of troughs, so it was good for them to be exposed to proper manners by the campers. Some of the â??Big Houseâ?? rules included: waiting for the dinner bell to enter the hall, no hats indoors, saying please and thank you, passing food to the right, no elbows on the table and no talking with your mouth full. Anytime a player was observed breaking any of these rules, there was a camper close by informing them of the proper way they should be conducting themselves.

      Kyle Winkelman, from St. Ignace High School, spoke to the campers after dinner and thanked Bay Cliff on behalf of the All-Star players and coaches. â??This has been a lot of fun for us to come spend time with you. We thank you for asking us to visit and also to have dinner with you. You have motivated us all to keep working hard to overcome the obstacles in our lives. We have memories that will last us a lifetime.â?? Coach Ken Klein, Lake Linden-Hubbell, also spoke to the group and thanked Bay Cliff and the campers for being such great hosts.

      There is no doubt, the trip was a huge success. As much as the campers enjoyed the visit, the players took away much more. A theme of All-Star week has always been to give back to the communities of the U.P., and the players saw first-hand at Bay Cliff what that means. As one of the All-Star coaches stated, â??Many things will come and go from our lives, but memories will last forever, and there were definitely many unbelievable memories made this year at Bay Cliff.â??

      Jilbertâ??s Dairy Welcomes Players Back

      When the All-Star players returned back to campus, there was a special treat waiting for them, ice cream from Jilbertâ??s Dairy. Jilbertâ??s has been a long-time supporter of the All-Star Game, and is always generous when it comes to providing for the players. There were several flavors to choose from, and many different toppings. The players enjoyed making their own creations, and many of them took some time to rest, get off their feet and just relax while enjoying a late-night treat.

      As for the game itself, there is only one more day of practice left before the two teams take to the field on Saturday. Both teams have come quite a long way since the beginning of the week and are looking like teams who have played together for an entire season. The players have embraced each other as teammates and it shows in their chemistry on the field. Saturday should be a very exciting match-up. There are two practices scheduled during the day Friday.

      Friday evening is the All-Star Banquet, which will provide the players a chance to see their families and tell them all about how the week has gone. It is being held at the NMU University Center-Great Lakes Room, with the social beginning at 6PM, and the program to follow at 7PM.

      Saturday morning are the youth football games in the Dome. The first game (5th and 6th graders) is at 10:15AM and is between Marquette and Keewenaw (7th and 8th graders), and the second game is at Noon and is between Marquette and Newberry. All youth games are free to attend, and any youth player in the games who wears his jersey to the All-Star Game gets in free.