June 13, 2024   5 MIN READ

Happy Camper

Second-Year LB Gives Back With Football Camp, Looks Forward To Birds Competition


When Eagles second-year linebacker Ben VanSumeren was finalizing details of his first annual football camp, which is slated for later this month at his Michigan high school alma mater, the expected turnout was around 300 kids.

But when VanSumeren recently called to check in with USA Football, sponsor of the “Ben VanSumeren Football Camp,” he learned of the devoted outpouring of support from his hometown community.

“We didn’t really have a capacity at first because we really didn’t really know what to expect,” VanSumeren explained. “I expected probably about 300 kids.

“And I let the camp registration go until like two weeks ago, when I checked in with USA Football, and they said that 600 kids signed up.”

That’s about twice the expected attendance at Garber High School, in Essexville, Mich., for the free camp.

While no child was turned away or deprived of opportunity, VanSumeren was made aware by school officials that 600 was exactly capacity.

VanSumeren, by the way, is primarily running the camp solo, with some help from former teammates.

For VanSumeren, who hails from nearby Bay City, the opportunity to give back to his hometown and community wasn’t taken lightly.

The Eagles’ linebacker, who garnered the unique distinctions of being the first Division I football player produced from his high school and first to play in the NFL, defied the odds with his own journey, inspiring optimism and community pride.

When USA Football became involved as a sponsor, the decision was a no-brainer.

“It’s pretty meaningful to me,” he said back in March. “I’m from a really small town. And I’m the first NFL player from my high school, I’m really the first Power 5 college football player to ever come from my high school as well, my brother being the second.

“It’s something that’s big for the area. I’m getting all my people around here involved. People love football around here, but they don’t really know the ins and outs of the recruiting process, they don’t know the ins and outs of this game and stuff like that. I’m happy to bring some drills back here and help out the community.”

Ben VanSumeren

GETTY IMAGES: Eagles LB Ben Van Sumeren is hoping to crack the 53-man roster in Year 2 after a brief stint last year.

The camp runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 20 at Garber High. The age groups range from 8-18 and will be divided into two groups, youth and high school.

The camp, structured to maximize enjoyment while also mixing in directives and drill work, offers a jam-packed itinerary.

The first 30 minutes are reserved for introductions. The camp will also include a host of guest speakers, including Saginaw Valley State head coach Ryan Brady and several local high school coaches.

The on-field portion of the four-hour tutorial will include basic instructions and drills, as well as 7-on-7s and flag football for the youth.

“Obviously, I want the camp to hit home,” VanSumeren said. “If they take something with them from one of my speakers that I have coming, or myself, that’s really important to me. But also, I just want them to have a fun time and get out there and play football.

“Some of these kids are so young – technique and stuff doesn’t really matter, yet. It’s really just about being competitive and playing some football. That’s the most fun part about it is they’re gonna take four hours out of their day to come out here and do a camp.”

The next six weeks marks the final lull for NFL players before training camps open in late July, when the season officially shifts into gear.

For those wired like VanSumeren, the grind never really does stop, even during the down time.

The second-year pro, now weighing in at 242 pounds, is laser-focused on arriving to the NovaCare Complex in peak condition.

One of the words of wisdom shared with VanSumeren from former Eagles safety Kevin Byard, a veteran whom VanSumeren had a connection with, was about maximizing his strength.

“[Byard] told me, ‘If speed is your thing, speed is what you gotta drill in the offseason. And it’s something that you can’t lose,'” VanSumeren recalled. “I took that to heart, really. And I run a lot throughout the offseason. It’s all top-end stuff.

“Getting out there in OTAs and running fast is no different than my training. It’s one of the things I have going for me.”

Soon to be in the midst of a closely contested depth battle at linebacker, VanSumeren has a legitimate opportunity to seize one of the final slots at his position.

Similar to his passion for giving back, VanSumeren has one for absorbing as much knowledge as possible about his craft and obsessing over the subtleties and nuances of the position.

His thirst for knowledge and fast absorption, coupled with his athleticism and special teams prowess, should endear himself to new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

For now, though, VanSumeren’s primary focus, when looking ahead to training camp, is centered on honing his most prominent trait and becoming more versed in Fangio’s system.

“I’ll be doing some top-end speed work,” he said. “Also, I mean, I’m a high-motor guy; I like to think I play like my hair’s on fire, so you gotta be in great conditioning.

“I’ll be getting out there and getting in the best possible shape that I can be. It’s one of my strengths.”

Van Sumeren added that he’s also trying to master the new playbook and “handle the whole defense.”

“I wanna take that to the next level and really spend a lot of time with the new defense that we’re getting,” he said, “so when we get out there in camp and we start playing games, I really hit the ground running.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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