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Players embrace opportunities in extended offseason

Attending showcases is one way local players are spending time during the extended offseason. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo
Attending showcases is one way local players are spending time during the extended offseason. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo

When adversity hits, what are you going to do about it?

Those are exactly the thoughts from Derrick Stephens, who heads the Iron Sharpens Iron Football Academy and has hosted numerous showcases during the offseason. While high school athletics in California have been pushed back until the spring semester, this allows athletes extra time to prepare for the season and get even stronger.

So, how will players take advantage of this time?

“This is where adversity hits,” Stephens said. “Are you going to say, ‘Ah, man, I don’t have it.’ Or, ‘I have it.’ And this is where I personally find out how bad a kid really wants it because they can literally sit on the couch and be like, ‘I’ll just wait until football season. I’ll just wait until this happens again.’ But this right here is a blessing. Times like this, it’s where you find the heart, the heart of an athlete.”

Everyone is playing on Friday nights or whatever the night of their competition is, but is one doing with the other days? What are they doing the other six days of the week?

What is your diet like? Are you networking with people? Are you surrounding yourself with the right people? How are you preparing yourself?

“Those are the things that I tell all the athletes, like, ‘You guys help me preach a lot. This is your interview. Like this is your interview. We know that you can play football. We know that. It’s the intangible things that we want to know,’” Stephens said.

“Times like this is where it’s important that we keep drilling, ‘Hey, just get involved. Get involved. Go and get better.’ That’s the mindset: get better because sooner or later you will perform, and are you going to be like the guy that is not ready or the guy that beats everybody’s expectation? Which one are you?”

And local athletes are embracing this challenge that lies ahead, understanding just what kind of benefits they can obtain from an extra three months of preparation.

Clayton Valley Charter senior athlete Erik Christoffersen, who ran for 196 yards and finished with a team-high 493 receiving yards in the Ugly Eagles’ run to a 2019 state title, is using this period to his advantage – attending showcases and utilizing every extra second he has.

“I believe it’s a blessing in disguise,” Christoffersen said. “They give us three more months to get better, and me being younger than everybody else in my class – I just turned 17 – I just feel like it’s just given me more time to get better.”

College Park offensive lineman Colton Bonnington has already experienced a remarkable offseason of growth, and he is ready to see what can happen come the now-2021 football campaign.

Bonnington has added 15 pounds. Speed wise, his 40-yard dash time has improved by six-tenths of a second.

Another offensive lineman, Vintage’s Preston Gullum, has also gained 15 pounds and is focusing on all possible details to prepare for the upcoming season.

“These few months are going to be amazing,” Bonnington said. “Just preparing my body for football and then the next level. It’s going to be awesome.”

“It definitely gets your mind right,” Gullum said. “You’ve got to pay attention and focus and get you to study these plays that the coaches are giving to you, and being able to lift for a good amount of time without being on the field gives you extra strength and just helps you during the season.”

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