DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — During the gridiron's off-season, there is no shortage of skill position camps or seven-on-seven tournaments, but at Everything Athletics in Dauphin County, there's something different taking place.
"You usually have to drive to Philly or Pittsburgh for all that. So we saw a camp down here and we jumped right on it," recalled Steel-High sophomore offensive and defensive lineman Sean Bennett Junior.
"It was just something I wanted to do to celebrate the linemen," said Harrisburg native and former NFL lineman Jaimie Thomas. "You know, everyone does the normal camp where you get a t-shirt with a sticker that's falling off and it runs the same drills. I wanted to give guys a chance to be themselves and have some fun and compete."
When it comes to leading the Big Man Classic, Thomas' resume speaks for itself. While LeSean McCoy was exploding through holes at Bishop McDevitt, Thomas was one of the Crusaders creating those holes.
He then strapped on the pads for Maryland, before being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, where he blocked for future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.
"I'm really honored to be getting coached by somebody who was a former NFL player," said Central Dauphin Middle School's Jude Slover. "He's helped me. I used to, when I started in sixth grade, I really didn't think I'd be getting to where I am, even right now."
"It gives you that credibility with the youth," added Thomas. "They automatically look up to you as it's someone who did it or got to a point that they want to reach. I kind of build off of that and give the guys what I can."
But while Thomas might look like the poster child for a lifetime of experience on the line, he actually got a late start in the game of football.
"I didn't start playing football until tenth grade in high school. It was funny cause they begged me my freshman year to come out for football," recalled Thomas. "The team went 9-1 and everyone was loving it and I was just like, 'Man I want to play basketball.' Coach Weachter was bringing coaches into school and I had a coach from Boston College come in and he looked me in the eye and was like, 'What are you going to be a six-foot-three, three hundred pound point guard?' I was like, 'Uh, maybe I should look at football a little more."'
The competition varies at the Big Man Classic, from some of the most sought-after recruits in the state, to grade school up-and-comers.
"It's good competition and it really shows you what you can do as a person and what you need to work on as well," said Cumberland Valley lineman Tyler Merrill. "You can compare yourself to people of the same skill or those better than you."
While the students who line up at the big man classic are looking to improve in the trenches, Thomas also knows that his lessons extend far beyond the gridiron.
"These guys are going to be the next fathers and the next men of our generation. So any piece that I can implant onto them, that makes them better men, that's what it's all about," said Thomas.