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O'HARA: Rookies mentor young players at football camp

The gridiron at Detroit Renaissance High School's sparkling athletic complex was a field of dreams for young players and an environment for reflection for Detroit Lions rookies playing the combined roles of coaches and mentors.

It was a joyous and spirited setting Thursday for both groups in the second annual clinic, put on in partnership with the Lions and Detroit Police Athletic League.

Linebacker Jarrad Davis, the Lions' first-round pick, summed up how he once was at the same stage as the kids going through drills.

"This is the root of the dream," Davis said.

View photos from the 2017 Detroit Lions rookie camp at Renaissance High School in Detroit.

For the Lions rookies, the clinic is the last event in the annual rookie transition program before they take their offseason break until the start of training camp in late July. The program is designed to prepare players for events and situations not always connected to the game.

For young athletes such as Darnell Adams, who will be a freshman in the fall at Detroit Loyola High School, it wasn't hard to pinpoint the highlight of the day.

"Meeting NFL players," Adams said. "I've seen them on TV, and watched them play."

Adams sounded like a young veteran when asked what he wanted to accomplish Thursday. Adams showed a combination of good hands and cover ability in drills as a wide receiver and defensive back.

"Just trying to get better, and make my way up," he said.

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin couldn't have coached the reply any better.

Davis enjoyed being part of an experience for youngsters who one day might be in his position.

"That's what makes this so much fun, because my hometown is a small town," said Davis, who grew up in Kingsland Ga., and played at the University of Florida. "I wasn't fortunate enough to have NFL players come and run a camp with me.

"Obviously, I wanted to meet some NFL guys. To put the work in that I put in throughout my life, and knowing what I wanted as a kid, to come out here and give it to these kids, it's the least I can do."

Davis could project himself back in time to a period when he dreamed of playing in the NFL.

"Most definitely," he said. "It's funny. You remember lacing up your little cleats out there, your little tennis shoes, and running around and cutting loose. That's all you're doing.

"These kids out here, they're playing because they love it. They play because they enjoy it. I get a charge running through me now."

Davis said he stresses to the youngsters the importance of communication – and not just on the playing field.

"Communication is key in every aspect of life, whether you're talking football or talking to a loved one, or whatever," Davis said. "You've got to make sure you explain what's going on in a certain situation.

"I want them to see what it looks like for a guy to come out and communicate and tell them what needs to be done. Everybody doesn't have that in their life. You've got to make sure you set a great example."

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