Football Fantasy Camp Provides Spartan Game-Day Experience

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Die-hard Spartans live the dream at Spartan Football Fantasy Camp.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Playing football at Michigan State is a dream very few get to realize - especially after graduation - but for the individuals who participated in this week’s two-day Spartan Football Fantasy camp, the MSU football experience became a reality.


For the fourth consecutive year, Coach Mark Dantonio and the MSU football program hosted the Spartan Football Fantasy Camp on June 17-18. The camp gives alumni and fans from around the country the opportunity to experience MSU football from the inside.


After spending the night at the Kellogg Center and enjoying a pregame meal, the campers followed the MSU football game-day tradition of walking to Spartan Stadium, even flicking a penny at the Sparty statue as they passed.


Once at the stadium, the campers were greeted by current coaches and former Spartan greats, including Lorenzo White, Bill Burke, Sherm Lewis, Dave Rayner and Herb Haygood.


White, a former All-American for the Green and White, enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the camp participants and share some of the stories from his playing days.


“Part of the fantasy experience is allowing campers to ask questions about games we’ve played in,” White said. “They saw they game and want to know what it was like to play, and I get to tell them what happened the night before and what happened during the game.”


Philadelphia resident Keith Niedermeier attended graduate school at MSU from 1995-99 and still flies back to East Lansing for every home game. He got his first taste of MSU football from field-level on Thursday.


“Just being out here with these players and coaches is great,” Niedermeier said. “Most of the (campers) are older than me and some have been here before so I’m learning a little something from them.”


Several of the attendees at this year’s camp have participated in all four previous camps, including Bill Athens of Grosse Ile , Mich.


“I came to the first camp four years ago and met some great guys and had a great time, so I’ve made it an annual occasion,” Athens said. “It’s a way to get a little closer to the program, get a glimpse into the program and feel a little closer to it when you come out here in the fall on game days.”


After getting the opportunity to meet and greet the coaching staff and former players, the campers had an offensive practice followed by a short break and then a defensive practice. In addition to putting the campers through drills, the coaches walked the participants through offensive sets and defensive formations, providing instruction and answering questions.


“Getting a chance to see how the offensive line gets its assignments – something you never get to pick up from sitting in the stands – is great and it gives you an opportunity to understand how complicated it is for the players,” Niedermeier said. “That was a real eye-opener.”


Even a camp-veteran like Athens agreed.


“Going through what the players go through gives you a better appreciation for what they do,” he said.


MSU football Director of Personnel and Player Development Dino Folino serves as fantasy camp director and has overseen the program since its inception.


“We have guys here that are great supporters of the program and the thing that they enjoy most when they come here is the fellowship and camaraderie that they establish with the coaching staff and former players,” said Folino. “It is something that we’ve nurtured over the years and something that they really, really enjoy.”


When the campers return to MSU for football games this fall, they’ll certainly have the memories of fulfilling their dreams of being Spartans – on the field – for a day.


“Meeting a legend like Sherm Lewis, catching a touchdown pass from Bill Burke – where else is that going to happen?” Niedermeier said. “It was pretty awesome.”