It’s been years since players like Cincinatti Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis wore the purple and gold of a St. Augustine High School football jersey. But, on Saturday morning, Green-Ellis and several other NFL players and coaches were back with their alma mater for the team’s fifth annual alumni football camp.
On a hot and humid day in City Park, current Purple Knights received the opportunity to work with their predecessors who found success in the higher levels of the sport.
“We want to improve their fundamentals and their overall technique and overall understanding of the game and the concept of that respective position,” Patriots strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash said. “Just that they can improve into a better player than when they came in. If they leave a better player than what they came, I like to think I did something right.”
Looking across the field, one corner featured Nash running defensive backs through drills while LSU offensive lineman Trai Turner worked with his former unit and Green-Ellis attempted to punch the ball out of the hands of the nation’s top recruit in St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette.
Green-Ellis — a two-time, 1,000-yard back in the NFL — worked extensively with Fournette who Green-Ellis said he’s been following for the past five or six years.
Fournette said Green-Ellis gave he and his teammates valuable advice on how to succeed at the next level — stressing things like education and hard work.
The Bengals running back said his main goal for the day was to make sure he was able to share his experience with the young players and show them what it takes to make it to the next level, specifically the small fundamentals of the game.
“(I tell them) to stay focused on whatever is in the drill. Whether it’s to stay low out of their cuts or lower their shoulder, whatever the case may be,” Green-Ellis said. “Just giving them the fine points and tunes that they might not know and not just going through the motions of the drills.”
Players and coaches expressed a love for their former school as the reason why they chose to return to the football field for St. Aug during the brief time off from their own teams.
Nash said he takes every chance he gets to come back to New Orleans for his old school. Anything he can do to help what he referred to as the grass roots of the sport.
The great amount of time and effort spent on the young athletes did not go without notice. The current Purple Knights could be seen attentively listening to the lessons their elder sportsman bestowed upon them throughout the morning.
Fournette said he’s grateful to receive coaching from St. Aug alums who became successful in football.
“They’re St. Augustine alumni and they’re making ways for us, making a path for us,” Fournette said. “They’re making it easier for us. Some of the coaches are all around the country in college football and they’re making it easier for us.”
Fournette — one of the most sought after recruits in the country — has not announced which school he’ll attend following his senior year at St. Aug, but schools like LSU, Alabama, Florida State and Michigan are thought to be a few of the top schools on his list. He is expected to make a final decision at the Under Armour All-American game in January.