Challenging skills: Upper Peninsula football all-stars get back in shape, test each other in number of ways
“It’s something to go up against some of the top athletes in the U.P., it’s hard competition.” — Wyatt Goodwin, former Marquette Senior High School player, on the U.P. All-Star
MARQUETTE — The build-up for Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Football All-Star Game continued Wednesday afternoon at the Superior Dome, where each participating athlete took part in individual skills challenges.
Ishpeming’s Ashok Ravindran said the competitions were surprisingly challenging, considering the players are outside of the regular football season but having been quickly trying to get back in playing shape.
“It’s a little harder when you have three days of grinding football practice under your belt,” Ravindran said. “Everyone’s achy and sore. It helps everyone get into a little more shape by the end of the week, but it’s definitely a lot of work.”
The day got started with the bench press, with competitions held for linemen and non-linemen.
Newberry’s John Paramski topped the non-linemen with 19 reps, while Ishpeming’s Ashok Ravindran led the linemen with the same number of reps.
“It was pretty basic and straightforward,” Ravindran said. “All I could think was ‘Don’t lose to the non-linemen,’ but I was happy with how it came out.”
Marquette’s Wyatt Goodwin from Team Red topped the 40-yard dash for non-linemen, making the distance in 4.650 seconds.
Goodwin said the amount of competitors in the dash was the surprising challenge.
“Everything went by pretty quick,” Goodwin said. “I was a little surprised when so many people lined up to get started. It’s something to go up against some of the top athletes in the U.P., it’s hard competition.
“It’s some of the fastest athletes in the U.P., so I made sure to stretch out a lot and see if I could win, and it was something to get this.”
Kingsford’s Trevor Roberts, also from Team Red, won amongst the linemen in 4.663 seconds.
The separate groups also went in for a wide receiver challenge, where each athlete would catch passes from four different directions with the speed increasing in each round.
Calumet’s Russ Bjorn from Team Red topped the non-linemen, while Marquette’s Travis Christensen from Team Red won for the linemen.
The linemen and non-linemen were grouped back together for the other challenges. In the passing challenge, Jace Briggs from Bark-River Harris and Team Black was the longest passer, throwing for 53 yards.
In punting, Paramski won his second title with 54 yards.
West Iron County’s A.J. Weisnicht from Team Black won the field goal competition by making a boot of 40 yards.
The players are seven or eight months removed from their football seasons, and with physically demanding practices lined up for Saturday’s game, Ravindran said the athletes need to stay focused on staying in shape.
“We need to stay hydrated and not overdo anything,” he said. “We need a few breaks during practice, but a lot of it is getting to bed early and resting at night.”
Toda, the players travel to Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay to visit members of the camp, then will have a ceremonial dinner on Friday night with a pep talk for the following day’s game from former Northern Michigan University football player, former NFL head coach, and current NFL Network commentator Steve Mariucci.
Goodwin said this week is an experience of a lifetime.
“It means a lot to be here,” Goodwin said. “It’s crazy playing all these kids. There’s a lot of people you don’t normally play with or against. It’s a great experience rooming with all these kids and meeting new people.”
Ray Bressette can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is email@example.com.