NFLers bringing Gridiron Institute to Ionia Free Fair


By Chip Burch • Last Updated 10:19 am on Wednesday, January 18, 2012

From left, the Gridiron Institute's Clarence Love, Damian Gregory and Dave Badder are interviewed at WION Radio in Ionia. — Courtesy photo

IONIA — Football players from all over central Michigan will get a chance to see what an NFL training camp is really like during the Ionia Free Fair.

Former NFL players Clarence Love and Damian Gregory joined David Badder of Belding to promote the Gridiron Institute, which is set for July 22 at the fairgrounds.

“We’re hopefully going to attract athletes from all over Michigan,” Badder said. “It’s mostly going to be position specific, so no matter what position you play in football, there’s going to be a coach that will teach you the skills at that position. There’s also going to be a lot of stress on academics and character, because that’s important to advance to the next level.”

The Gridiron Institute is going to simulate the NFL training camp experience for local football players, noted Gregory.

“It will be like they’re in an NFL training camp,” said Gregory, who played for Tampa Bay, Miami and Cleveland in his three-year career. “It’s very much like the times when me and Clarence played in the NFL. We try to do it by periods, which are five minute sessions to make up a certain amount of time to make up a play or situations that we’re going to be doing.”

It’s more than that, Love noted.

“The Gridiron Institute is a program we’ve set up to help support kids through mentoring and through sports to be better developed children,” said Love, who played cornerback on the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens for a game.

“We use education as a foundation and sports as a tool of engagement,” Gregory continued. “We use that to get in with the kids to tell them there is a better life for you.”

The end goal is to develop better individuals, Love said.

“When it’s all said and done we hope the kids are developed, polished on being better individuals, not only on the football field or whatever sport they want to embark on, but also as better people,” he said.

There will also be a giveaway to one of the participants, Badder noted.

“Riddell is giving away a custom-fit pair of shoulder pads, which is I believe about a $450 value, and they are also giving away the new Riddell 300 helmet that just came out in the NFL this year,” he said. They are going to give a custom-fit helmet away also. We’ll also have some gifts for the younger kids through Riddell.”

The Institute will be free to participants. For more information, contact the Ionia Free Fair at (616) 527-1310.

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