WHEATFIELD — Kankakee Valley’s football team linemen received some special help last week in the form of a clinic aimed specifically at them and led by two men who know what it takes to go the distance.
Enoch Smith Sr. and Dr. Marques Stevenson are from a company called Starts Up Front Football. The name of the organization says it all. Winning at football starts up front with the offensive and defensive lines.
Smith and Stevenson brought that mindset to the Kankakee Valley Middle School football field on July 16 and 18 and put the offensive and defensive line players present through their paces.
KV Varsity Coach and former Big Ten and NFL player James Broyles brought the camp in with the goal of giving the Kougars an edge on the line this year.
“At so many camps,” said Broyles, “the linemen are an afterthought. They do a lot of standing around while everyone pays attention to the ‘backs.’ As you can see, that isn’t the case here. This is just what we need. These are drills they do at the collegiate level.”
Smith, a Chicago native, played high school and collegiate football and even was called back by the New Orleans Saints. He didn’t stick but went on to play in the Arena Football League, winning the Arena Cup with the Peoria Pirates. In college, Smith led his team in sacks and is a defensive line specialist.
In addition to his prowess on the athletic field, Smith holds a Masters of Education in K-12 education administration and a Masters of Education in curriculum and instruction. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Christian and Ministerial Leadership.
Smith started the SUF Academy in 2016 and is its CEO. His son, Enoch Smith Jr. played on the defensive line at Oklahoma State and was the 2018 Liberty Bowl Defensive MVP. He is also an instructor.
Balancing out Smith’s Defensive line knowledge is Stevenson’s ability to teach offensive line. Stevenson comes from a storied coaching background; in high school, he played for two Hall of Fame Head Coaches, Tim Kelly (basketball) and Dick Zatkovitch (football) at Lincoln High School. He also grew up under the watchful eye of Chicago Bears retired coach and scout Willie Peete along with Sam and Sean Manuel both former San Francisco 49ers.
Also working with the SUF is Eric Johnson Sr who played collegiate football, was signed by the New York Jets and also played for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League.
At the camp, the Kougar linemen worked on agility, speed and overall technique. Leading with their hands was stressed as was, what Smith called “violent hands” technique. Despite the intense heat, several of the Kougars remarked that this was best camp they had attended and well worth it. The breaks for water and cooling were numerous but everyone hustled to get back started after each one.
Smith said this was the group’s first foray into northwest Indiana but it won’t be their last. He states he is already planning to hold two clinics in this area next year, based on the success of this first one.