North Arlington teaches prospective grid stars proper techniques

Aidan Gill is a big, strapping, strong-looking seventh grader who attends the North Arlington Middle School. Surprising to no one, young Aidan also likes to play football.

“I’m a tackle and a nose guard,” Gill says with a certain amount of swagger and pride. “I like to play defense more because I get to hit people.”

That’s fair enough.

But Gill still feels like he needs to learn a few things about football, so that’s why he attended the Vikings Football Camp at Rip Collins Field last week.

“I play baseball and I wrestle, but my favorite sport is football,” Gill said. “I knew this camp was coming and I was looking forward to it.”

It had nothing to do with it coinciding with the first week of summer and the first week outside of being in a hot, sweaty, cramped classroom, did it?

“Not really,” Gill said. “Because I would rather be a lawyer than a football player. I study in the classroom as much as I study football.”

The impressive Gill was one of 40 or so youngsters who participated in the week-long camp, spearheaded by North Arlington High School head football coach Anthony Marck.

“I always try to think back on my own life and the positive influences I had as a kid,” said Marck, who is a North Arlington native and who organized the youth camp for the seventh time. “If we give them a pointer here and there, it really makes a difference. In today’s everyday world, football is taboo with the younger kids, so we’re trying to stress a safer game with different tackling techniques.”

Marck said that Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has been conducting surveys for years on the safer way to play football and found out that rugby is a sport that can benefit football players.
“So we’re using what Coach Carroll learned in terms of speed drills and agility,” Marck said. “See if we can make a difference the way our kids line up and tackle.”

The new approach has worked wonders with the youngsters.

“I’m very encouraged,” Marck said. “I feel very good about football in North Arlington. These kids want to play.”

Marck said that he had to give proper due to North Arlington youth football coordinator Joe Witt, who is one of the best all-around youth sports coaches and instructors in the state.

“I have to credit Joe Witt for getting the kids out,” Marck said. “Joe and I have been friends for a long time and he does a wonderful job.”

It was also a lot of fun for Marck, who had his son Zack as a counselor and his 8-year-old son Mason as a camper. Zack attends Emerson Borough High School, so he doesn’t get a chance to play for his father, but this gives him a chance to work with his dad and little brother.

Mason Marck was one of the most attentive and energetic kids in camp.

“I have to try to impress him, because he is my Dad,” Mason Marck said. “My brother being here is cool. It’s like a whole family of football.”
Mason Marck was asked what aspect of football he liked best.
“I like defense,” young Mason said. “I like tackling people and hurting people. That’s what I like.”

One has to wonder if J.J. Watt liked hurting people before he entered third grade.

Jack Gilmore is only 9 years old, but the North Arlington resident knows he comes from good grid stock. His late uncle, Kevin, was among those football players from Marshall University who perished in the 1972 plane crash that wiped out the entire Marshall team. Kevin Gilmore was one of four locals who lost their lives in that horrible tragedy, including starting QB Ted Shoebridge, who hailed from Lyndhurst.

If you say the last name of Gilmore locally, it’s the image that comes to mind.

“I come from a good football family,” said Jack Gilmore, who is a budding quarterback and safety in the North Arlington Pee-Wee program. “I wanted to learn how to run with the ball better and changing directions when I run. This has been a lot of fun. I couldn’t wait to get out on the field and have fun.”

Gill liked that he was working with counselor Michael Gross, the former University of Rhode Island lineman who was the 2007-2008 Observer Male Athlete of the Year recipient.

“He’s one of the gym teachers at my school and I like to go up against him sometimes,” Gill said. “He’s a good role model. He’s been working with me on my defensive moves.”

Ian Crudele is another who comes from a good football background. The 10-year-old fifth grader from Roosevelt School in North Arlington is the son of youth coach and former standout athlete Bobby Crudele.

“I’ve been playing football since I can remember,” Ian Crudele said. “I’ve been throwing my Dad since I was a baby. I was looking forward to the camp, because it’s a chance for me and my Dad to be together, playing my favorite sport.”

Young Ian is a Jets fan and his favorite player is Brandon Marshall.

“I think this camp is going to help me a lot,” Ian Crudele said. “I probably will be scoring a lot of touchdowns this season. I want to learn to throw the ball with more distance. I can already run the football. I think this will help me become a better player.”

Joey Witt was one of the oldest kids in camp. The 13-year-old son of the coach will be in eighth grade this fall, so he’s almost at the high school level, where he will play football and baseball. The younger Witt was going from football camp to baseball camp all last week. He’s also on the North Arlington Little League All-Star team that is playing in the District 5 tournament. North Arlington defeated Lodi, 12-6, in the opening game of the pool play tournament last Thursday night.

“It’s tough to juggle,” Witt said. “It’s what I have to do to get better. I feel like I am throwing the football better here. I like getting out and playing football. It’s my favorite sport.”

That is until next week, when the North Arlington basketball camp begins under coach Rich Corsetto.

One of the most impressive kids at the camp was 9-year-old lineman Jordan Gaston, who has a bright future with his size and speed.

“We just hope that they learn something that they can take with them and that they have fun,” Marck said. “I get a big kick out of kids who learn something, then come up to me later on and say, ‘This is the way you wanted it, right, Coach?’ That’s a big thrill.”

If only it was that easy for Marck with his two sons at home.

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”