By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Shortly after Dan Gress was named Troy’s new head varsity football coach in March, he made a tour of the local elementary schools.
Hearing things he’d said during those speeches repeated by those kids during the Troy football team’s Little Man’s Camp this week has been a source of pride.
“It’s been great,” Gress said. “I was able to make it to every single elementary school right before the school year ended and talk to all of the kids, kind of give my pitch for the big thing we’re talking about: ‘Respect the Star.’ And it was kind of neat this week, when I started talking about what Trojans do, we had kids yelling out ‘we respect the Star!’ That’s awesome.”
Gress hasn’t even coached an official game yet, and he’s already looking out for the Trojan program’s future.
On Wednesday, Gress, his coaching staff and a horde of varsity players finished hosting the Troy Little Man’s Camp, a three-day camp for players in grades 2 through 6 that helped teach the future Trojans about the fundamentals of the game, as well as allowing them to run drills with and get to know members of this year’s team that they will be cheering for from the stands on Friday nights.
Gress, who graduated from Northmont High School in 2009 and from Kent State University in 2013, where he played linebacker, has been Troy’s defensive line coach and special teams coordinator since 2015. He was named the Trojans’ head coach in March when Matt Burgbacher, who held that job since 2015, left to take over the head coaching job at his alma mater, Tippecanoe High School.
For Gress, the Little Man’s Camp was less about showing the young players specifics about how to play the game, but rather more about showing them what being part of the Troy family is like.
“That’s what I’m trying to instill from the younger grades — you don’t have to be a Trojan. You get to be a Trojan,” Gress said. “All the way from kindergarten to senior year, you get to be part of the Trojan family. I’m trying to instill how special of a place Troy is, and with that comes responsibility, and that responsibility is respecting the Star. The big thing is how we carry ourselves, not just on the field or in the school, but out in public in all facets of life.”
And Gress and company had a big audience to spread their message to, as well.
“The camp went very well. The numbers were high with the amount of kids that came out,” he said. “There were three things we preached to the kids the whole time. Number one, just give your best effort the whole time. Number two, compete. We tell them it’s okay to want to win, and if you don’t win to come back and keep giving your best effort. And the last thing, that we preach all the way up to our varsity players, is just to be a great teammate. Love your teammate, push your teammate, support your teammate. And the kids really bought into that.
“It was neat to see. On the second day, when we ended our last set of stations with competition drills, before I could even say it we had kids yelling ‘compete! Compete!’ And that’s great to hear at this age.”
Another great sign for Gress was how many of his varsity players assisted with the camp.
“That’s how I came up with our team slogan that we break every single thing down to: ‘For Troy,’” Gress said. “People kept asking why do you want to be the head coach? And I didn’t want to be the head coach anywhere else. I wanted to be the head coach for Troy, and that’s why — because we have kids like this. Kids that come out, give their time, are amazing with the younger kids. We have a special group of young men here that us coaches are able to coach.”
And, as if the Trojans needed more motivation, the camp also served to build anticipation for the start of the team’s 10 summer practice days — which kick off next week.
“We’re ready to go,” Gress said. “Monday is our first camp day, our first official summer practice. The kids are excited and ready to roll, the coaches are excited and ready to roll, and we’re ready to go out and get this thing done and prove ourselves.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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