All Poly Camp is magnet for college football recruits
With blue-gray clouds boiling overhead, Dominique Love danced around small orange cones and snatched at passes. Each time, he grabbed the ball and secured it next to his sinewy, 6-foot-1 frame. It was an exercise in repetition, a checklist routine he performed as if his future depended on it.
It just might.
In one glaring way, Love didn't quite fit in among the group of players gathered last week in Bountiful. A black player from San Diego, he was at a camp designed for Polynesians from Utah. But in the 12 years since the All Poly Camp was conceived by Bountiful assistant Alema Te'o, it has outgrown the constraints of its initial mission and become a cultural staple, as well as a mixer for high-level recruits and college coaches. Now, about one-third of participants are not Polynesian.
"I heard about it from my cousin," said Love, a receiver/defensive back who has an offer to play at Colorado. "I'm trying to get my name out there, and he said the best way to get out there is come to the All Poly Camp."
Unmistakable puffs of black hair spilled out from some helmets, while other players were simply marked by the broad shoulders and ballerina agility that have helped many Polynesians become top-tier football recruits.
This is, foremost, their camp.
"Everyone knows about it," said Brandon Heim, a linebacker from Union High School in Vancouver, Wash. "Polynesians don't get as much exposure as the rest of the country, so it's a pretty big deal for us."
Due to the strong link between Pacific Islanders and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Wasatch Front is a magnet for Polynesians in the mainland United States. By extension, the state is a hotbed of Polynesian football recruits.
"Right now, football is a hot commodity in our community and we want to take full advantage of it," Te'o said.
For college coaches, a large gathering of Polynesian players and others trying to turn heads, it has become an attractive stop. Nike, the leading sponsor of the camp, bills it as "the No. 1 noninstitutional camp" in the country.
"In college, there's a growing trend of Polynesian players," Colorado assistant Brian Cabral said, "and in the NFL there's a growing trend of Polynesian players. â¦ It wasn't like that 10 years ago."
Cabral, who has Polynesian heritage and grew up in Hawaii, emphasized the cultural significance of bringing Polynesian players together for something that is their own.
Still, he acknowledged that it's impossible to look around at 300 football players 25 of whom, he estimated, will sign with Division 1 programs and not imagine some of them at Colorado.
That's where things get tricky for the All Poly Camp. The NCAA allows college coaches to work noninstitutional camps for two 15-day periods Â one each in June and July. Last week, major programs such as Washington and Stanford, as well as each of Utah's five Division I programs, were represented by coaches.
Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake critiqued the footwork of defensive linemen while, several hundred yards away, Brigham Young offensive coordinator Brandon Doman worked with quarterbacks.
Out-and-out recruiting by any of those coaches while at the camp would get their programs in trouble with the NCAA.
Stanford linebackers coach Lance Anderson is assigned to recruit in Utah, and the former Utah State assistant has coached at the All Poly Camp each of the past five years. He knows the rules and while he couldn't talk about Stanford with a potential recruit, he was watching closely.
"I'm going to take the information back with me," Anderson said.
Adam Ah Ching, a linebacker from Greer, S.C., has an offer from BYU, among others. A five-year veteran of the camp, Ah Ching knows the drill.
"I'm just trying to show what I can do," he said. "Coming all the way from South Carolina, I'm not going to waste their time."
For Ah Ching, the camp was just as much about getting together with fellow Polynesian players as it was performing for the men armed with scholarship power. For others, like Love, it was about getting better, yes, but mostly for turning heads. And then, there were players like Heim, the linebacker from Washington.
He is Polynesian and exulted in the brotherhood of the All Poly Camp. Still, he is entering his senior season and has only gotten "looks" from college coaches.
"No offers at the moment," Heim said, as rain started to fall. "But that's why I'm here."
Notable alumniof All Poly Camp
Paul Kruger • DE, Baltimore Ravens
Kaluka Maiava • LB, Cleveland Browns
Manti Te'o • LB, Notre Dame
Kona Schwenke • DE, Notre Dame
Ricky Heimuli • DT, Oregon
Isi Sofele • RB, California
Cameron Higgins • QB, Weber State
Eathyn Manumaleuna • DL, BYU
Nai Fotu • LB, Utah
Mike Honeycutt • DB, Utah
Harvey Langi • RB, Utah