Former Super Bowl champ organizes camp

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Jun. 26—HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — The lives of several coaches at the USA FUNdamentals Clinic came full circle on Saturday.

The camp, which was organized by 1986 Ashtabula High School graduate Jarrod Bunch, reached out to the youth attending a football camp at SPIRE Institute.

Bunch played football for the University of Michigan and won the Super Bowl with the New York Giants.

Bunch started a football camp for Ashtabula County youth in 1992 and Marcus Parker was a camper.

On Saturday, Parker was leading drills with the youth and remembered the way Bunch reached out to him so many years ago.

"It's fun. I like to teach the kids the things they taught us," said Parker, who was 6 when Bunch held his first camp.

Parker also coaches football and basketball for St. John School. The returned to Ashtabula County after a two-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bunch has been reaching out to area youth since his early days in the NFL. He has never lost the desire to give back to his hometown and surrounding communities.

Bunch, who until recently was a head football coach in the Los Angeles area, said he loves coaching and teaching. He said Ashtabula-area coaches gave him the chance to experience the joy of football and provided an opportunity for him to go to college and eventually play in the NFL.

"It gave me a structure. I am very grateful," he said.

Edgewood coach Olajuwon Cooper said the camp was impactful.

"That's exactly why I wanted to be a part of this camp," Cooper said. "One hundred sixty kids interracted and received instruction from a former NFL player from Ashtabula ... a first-round pick at that."

Lakeside coach Buzz Edwards said the camp is a great opportunity for kids in Ashtabula County.

"It's always a pleasure to help out coach Bunch and his team with his camp," Edwards said. "Coach Bunch is a great person, coach, player and role model for the kids in the community.

"The message of his camp is not just about football, it's about giving our kids skills that will make them successful in whatever they choose to do in life ... just like he is."

Bunch said he remembers Lyle Alzado, a former NFL player, coming to an end-of-season youth football banquet.

He's held onto those words from Alzado as he worked hard to reach the football mountaintop.

Growing up as the youngest kid on his street was also a major piece in Bunch's development as a football player. He said playing

against older stronger players paid off in the long run.

"When I got to play against kids my own age, it was easy," Bunch said.

Kevin Crockett, a

local youth and junior high coach, said he remembers a bus trip

to Michigan to see

Bunch play for the Wolverines. He now has a son playing sports at Lakeside High School and gives back to the community through his coaching.

Bunch said many area coaches and community leaders assisted the camp by volunteering their time or donating money to make the camp a reality.

Cooper said the camp is a great resource for the kids.

"Jarrod was real and authentic with them, which makes their dreams more realistic because they've had a real and meaningful experience with a former NFL player from their hometown or county," Cooper said.

More than 200 kids, volunteers and coaches were involved.

Kids represented the eight county schools plus Harvey, Riverside, Perry and even one camper from Columbus.