By Steve Wilaj
Standing in front of a large group of kids at the Cardinal Mooney Athletic Complex, Bo Pelini spoke with passion on Tuesday.
The Mooney alum and Nebraska head football coach was blunt, not wanting to cheat the many participants of the 12th annual Mooney Camp of Champions.
“The main message I wanted to get across was just to do the right thing,” Pelini said of his speech. “Do things the right way and be a leader. Stand your ground and listen to the people that care about you.
“It sounds simple, but we all know it’s not that simple these days,” Pelini said. “It gets harder and harder for this generation of kids.”
Pelini’s speech capped the two-day youth football camp that featured numerous Mooney alumni as well as other local football figures and coaches.
P.J. Fecko, Mooney’s head football coach, was pleased with the camp’s turnout. He’s also proud of how the youth were served.
“First, you want to have fun and have the kids learn techniques to play safe, sound football,” Fecko said. “Depending on the age group, the techniques are more advanced than the other, but it’s just to give a little knowledge.
“Then it’s about seeing and hearing from people that were on that field and grew up in the Youngstown area,” Fecko said. “It’s for the kids to realize — if they do the right things and follow the right path — what could possibly happen.”
Mark Stoops, a Mooney alum and second-year Kentucky head football coach, also headlined the event. They were joined by some of Fecko’s former players.
The veteran Cardinals coach couldn’t say enough about the tight Mooney family.
“It was really neat to have everybody around and it was a really great thing for all these young people to experience,” Fecko said. “It speaks volumes to what this school is about and the special bond there is at this school.
“These guys totally believe that it’s a big part of their success,” Fecko said. ”They believe in it so much that they take their personal time and expense to come in here and spend the week with us. So it really speaks to the Mooney family and connections you have down the road line.”
Pelini, who signed autographs and posed for pictures with the children afterwards, realizes the unique bond of the Mooney family.
“So many of us alumni always try to come back,” Pelini said. “Some are out of town now and they still get tremendous support in town. But the guys from out of town try to stay involved as much as we can and try to support Mooney football.”