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John Cominsky returns to Barberton, teaches principles at youth football camp

The NFL player taught kids about hustle, sportsmanship and leadership on Saturday morning
John Cominksy Barberton Ryan Isley

BARBERTON, Ohio – Hustle. Sportsmanship. Leadership.

Those were the three principles being taught on Saturday by Detroit Lions defensive lineman John Cominsky, a 2014 Barberton graduate, at his youth football camp.

Why teach those three things to the 60 kids, who are entering the second through seventh grades this fall? Because those are the thing that can help kids in life, whether they are on the football field or elsewhere.

“Those are things they can control with the attitude and their effort,” Cominsky said. “Getting the kids to understand that, that they have control over that no matter how fast they are, no matter how strong they are, if we can just push those principles, then everybody has a chance to show those things out here.”

The kids started with drills that simulated some of the things that are done at the NFL Combine, such as three-cone, broad jump, 40-yard dash and the 20-yard shuttle. After that, the players got a chance to learn the ins and outs of different football positions.

Past Barberton players who are currently playing in college were there to teach, as Zane Ries (Ohio Wesleyan and Miami University), Keye Thompson (Ohio University), Tyler Eberhart (Valparaiso), Jeff Parker (West Virginia State) and Chris McCarroll (Grand Valley State) all came back to Rudy Sharkey Stadium for a few hours to lend a helping hand.

“Having our (players) come back and be excited to come and stay the entire time and work with the kids is awesome,” Barberton football coach Tony Gotto said. “Most of our (former players) have either graduated or are graduating here in the next year or so. It’s pretty cool and they enjoy the kids and hopefully the kids enjoyed having them here.”

One other former player who stopped by for the event was Barberton police officer Brandon McCall, who is the leading all-time single season rushing leader for the Magics. He ran for 1,972 yards in a season for Gotto, who pulled out a framed photo of McCall from his playing days to show the campers.

Having the former players come out and volunteer for the camp just adds to the experience for the younger kids, according to Cominsky, who said that football camps were “always the coolest thing that was related to football” growing up. The chance for kids to see players who grew up in the community and are now playing at the next level just pushes the camp to the next level.

“I know it is cool for players to come out here and see college players who have come through the Barberton system,” Cominsky said. “They get to come out here and hang out with them and learn football from them. I just know it’s a really good experience for them.”

The camp is also about giving back to the community, something Gotto appreciates from the former Magics player.

“Having John Cominsky give back to the community is awesome,” Gotto said. “We got a great today for our kids and our Barberton community to come out and have fun and learn a couple things.

Having a free camp for kids goes in line with what Cominsky and his wife, Brittany, are doing with their foundation. The Cominsky Family Foundation’s mission is “to support the youth of the community by educating ourselves of their needs and best utilizing our resources to fulfill those needs.”

The Barberton couple started the foundation in 2021 and hope to keep growing it in order to help more kids in any way they can.

“We are youth-centered, very broad,” John Cominsky said. “Any way we can help the kids - do football camps like this, help out around the holidays, anything like that.”

As for his NFL career, Cominsky will be with a new team this season after three seasons in Atlanta. The Lions claimed him off waivers earlier this month and he has already had a chance to meet the team and go through OTAs and minicamp.

“I am excited for a fresh start,” Cominsky said. “Detroit is the place for me. It is close to home, so family can come up the games. Fresh new environment. I am excited to get back on the field and play.”

As excited as Cominsky is to get back on the field, his excitement might not match that of the kids who got the chance to participate in his camp on Saturday.