Urbana University’s campus was empty no more – at least for a weekend.
The site of the former NCAA Division II university was buzzing with life again for the first time since March of 2020. The property, currently owned by Franklin University, is the target location of an effort by Ohio State legends Braxton Miller and Troy Smith to establish a preparatory school.
The school would share a dual focus of academics and athletics, and operate under the name, Urbana Preparatory and Sports Institute (UPSI). At this time, there has been no deal reached yet between Miller and Smith and Franklin University to purchase the campus.
As a sort of trial run of the property, Miller and Smith held the 2021 Charg1ng Heisman Elite Football Camp over the weekend. The camp included approximately 200 campers along with over 40 former Ohio State athletes as instructors.
In addition to the drills and physical activities in which campers participated in, community engagement events from local sponsors helped ensure the public could get in on the action.
Registration began at noon on Friday, and ran until around 2:30 p.m. After campers had received their ID lanyards and t-shirts, they found themselves face-to-face with Ohio State and NFL veterans. Before the beginning of the day’s activities, campers had the privilege of hearing some tips and advice from legendary Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
After he signed a few autographs, Tressel shared his thoughts on the camp.
“This is a large endeavor, but (Miller and Smith) dream big,” Tressel said, “and that’s what’s fun about watching what they’re doing.” He concluded by mentioning his desire to visit frequently should UPSI become official.
Dynamic warmups led by the always-energetic Coach Tramain Hall (former NFL wide receiver and CEO of EnhanceU) were conducted in the Grimes Center. Stretches were followed by a full roster of group and position-specific drills in the football stadium. To end the inaugural day, campers participated in an array of basketball skills competitions, including a three-point contest.
Campers returned to the field on Saturday at 10 a.m. for a full day of workouts and instruction led by Miller, Smith and the rest of the Charg1ng coaches. Coach Hall woke all in attendance with a boisterous opening speech, and once coach introductions had concluded, it was again time to get to work.
Campers rotated through various position-specific drill stations, including a cone square to work on agility, pads for strike-and-shed blocking work and ground obstacles which campers had to evade, after which they’d receive a ball thrown by one of the coaches. Towards the end of the day, campers and coaches alike competed in several games of “Speedball,” (in essence, the game of Ultimate Frisbee but with a football).
Even the two hosts couldn’t refrain from getting in on the action, with Miller finding his old target Ted Ginn Jr. for a few touchdown receptions.
As part of Charg1ng Day 2, a community event was hosted on the front lawn of the Grimes Center facing South High Street. The event featured several local food trucks, live music from Columbus- and Dayton-based groups and a job fair. Saturday concluded with a fireworks show presented by Phantom Fireworks at the Champaign County Fairgrounds.
The final day of camp on Sunday featured two more former Buckeyes: Parris Campbell (current wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts) and Ryan Shazier (former linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers). Shazier spoke about his experience training for and playing at the pro level, and specifically touched on controlling what you can control, because not everything is always your call.
Like Tressel, Shazier voiced his support for Miller and Smith’s vision of a prep academy.
“I think it’s amazing … to be able to give back to these kids. I think they’re going to do a great job,” said Shazier.
During lunch, campers were shown highlight reels of Campbell, Miller, Smith and other Buckeyes, helping to introduce the young athletes to the culture of Buckeye football. Around 5 p.m., and after more skill-specific drills and several more games of Speedball, the 2021 Charg1ng Heisman Elite football camp came to a close.