George Guido: 1st Willie Thrower QB Camp a success

Saturday, July 16, 2022 | 5:30 PM

Even if you’re the returning Willie Thrower Award winner, there’s always more to learn.

Armstrong’s Cadin Olsen, one of the state’s top quarterbacks, was back in New Kensington on Saturday for the first Willie Thrower Quarterback Camp and eager to add to his game.

Olsen was one of 29 quarterbacks from 24 WPIAL and City League schools to take part in the camp, directed by former NFL player Darnell Dinkins.

Olsen, an all-state quarterback who will be a senior this season, has received tutelage from Dinkins for a long time.

“He’s played in the NFL, won a Super Bowl. I’ve worked out with him since I was in fifth grade,” Olsen said. “He’s a great guy. I really like the way he does things. Working out with him before my senior season is a big deal.”

Said Dinkins: “The goals of a camp like this are to get these kids to understand all the idiosyncrasies of being a quarterback. Whether it’s taking the ball, catching the ball, getting it out quick, taking a three-step drop, not dropping your shoulders, getting you elbow in line with your shoulders, learning all the mechanical work and the footwork.”

Dinkins was an all-state quarterback himself who went to Pitt after being in the 1995 Big 33 game. He eventually became a tight end at Pitt and a tight end in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with the 2009 Saints.

Said Olsen: “He knows what he’s talking about, and I learn something from him about every time I’m with him whether it’s about football or life in general. He’s an awesome guy.”

Willie Thrower Award committee president Melvyn Smith of New Kensington was pleased with the turnout of players and instructors at Valley High Memorial Stadium, where a statue of Thrower stands.

“I’m excited about the turnout given the slim amount of time from idea to fruition,” Smith said. “We only had six or seven weeks to organize this, and we met our goal as to the number of quarterbacks we wanted.”

The field included three returning quarterbacks from 2021 WPIAL champions: Aliquippa’s Quentin Goode, Serra Catholic’s Elijah Ward and Jason Cross of Bishop Canevin.

The main organizer was coach Jose Regus of Serra and the Black Coaches Association of Western Pennsylvania.

Dinkins emphasized in-game situations. Many quarterbacks enjoy heaving the ball downfield in 7-on-7 situations, but Dinkins spoke of what to do on third-and-11 with 1 minute, 15 seconds left in the game.

“We want them to use their thought process before the ball is snapped,” Dinkins said. “Identifying the defense and how to continue to make plays. Hopefully, they can come away from this, they’ll learn to be like Willie Thrower, who was a great quarterback in his own right.”

Thrower helped led the former New Kensington High School to WPIAL titles in 1946 and ’47, along with a runner-up in 1945. He became the first Black quarterback to take a snap in an NFL game while playing for the Chicago Bears on Oct. 18, 1953.

The third Willie Thrower awardee will be selected by a panel of coaches and media personnel shortly after the 2022 season.

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