Thursday, July 19, 2007

‘The Stable’ draws a crowd

Local coach’s conditioning program includes county grads now in the pros

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Susan Whitney-Wilkerson⁄The Bowie Star
Largo High graduate Andre Kirkland (left), a defensive back for the St. Louis Rams, participates in drills at The Stable at Flowers High School along with Mohamed Koroma of Mitchellville, Paul Mulbah of Greenbelt, John Sam of New Jersey and Flowers grad Evan McCollough.
On a summer afternoon in a section of Ardwick-Ardmore Road, horses grazed in a field. Several hundreds away, across the street at Charles H. Flowers High School, dozens are sweating under the late-day sun.

‘‘We’re horses, we can run all day,” said St. Louis Rams rookie defensive back and Largo High graduate Andre Kirkland. ‘‘That’s how we feel about it.”

Welcome to ‘‘The Stable.”

Five or six days a week, they gather at the Springdale school for two to three hours of training. It’s probably the most non-exclusive club around, bringing professional, college and high school athletes, and even some middle schoolers onto the same field.

‘‘The unique thing about The Stable is it’s open to anybody who wants to get better at what they do,” said Darryl Young, a 2003 Flowers High grad and a senior on the track team at Morgan State. ‘‘It’s not limited to one team or sport.”

Mainly comprised of football and track athletes, Stable participants go through a series of pylometric exercises and agility drills before breaking off into smaller groups divided by sport.

On one side of Flowers’ baseball outfield late Thursday afternoon, Madieu Williams, a former standout at DuVal High and Maryland who’s a starting defensive back for the Cincinnati Bengals, was among those involved in defensive back drill sessions.

‘‘This is home, and I feel good when I’m working out,” said Williams, who’s headed into his fourth season. ‘‘It’s a lot of guys that put in a lot of work getting ready for whatever sport that they play. It’s a lot of camaraderie beyond us training.”

The Stable started in the mid-1990s when DuVal football players Williams, Jonathan Gerald, Caleb Cranke and Brian Fitzpatrick got together every afternoon during the summer at the Lanham school for offseason conditioning under Henry Brady, then a DuVal track and football assistant who’s now at Flowers. Also in the group was Dominique Williams, a former football standout at Gwynn Park High, who brought his younger brother Derrick. Derrick Williams, a junior receiver⁄returner at Penn State University, was the nation’s top high school recruit as a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High in 2004.

The gathering continued at Largo High when Brady was a football and track assistant there from 2000 to 2002. Among the participants at Largo were Kirkland, Usama Young, who’s headed to his first training camp with the New Orleans Saints in a couple of weeks, and India Ransom, who ran track at the University of Miami and was the 2002 Star⁄Gazette Girls’ Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year.

Many of them now make their way to Flowers, where Brady has been a track and football assistant since 2003. Athletes from in and out of the county also come to The Stable, where the first unwritten rule is ‘‘get ready to sweat.”

‘‘I came out a few years back and he [Brady] welcomed me with open arms,” said Paul Mulbah, a 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt High graduate, now a senior defensive back at Duquesne University. ‘‘He’s just willing to help anybody who’s willing to work.”

‘‘I guess word gets out because I have people calling me. It’s not like we’re advertising, but word gets around,” said Mel Coleman, a 1993 DuVal grad who played for the Chesapeake Tide indoor football team this spring, and runs the defensive back drills. ‘‘You’ve got guys in college bringing their friends. It used to be 10 or 15 guys, now it broken up to offense and defense.”

With as many as 75 athletes in one session, many are surprised Brady, a 1988 DuVal graduate who’s a backroom supervisor at Target in Bowie, doesn’t charge a fee. Brady said he simply enjoys training.

‘‘I guess they like what I did with them,” said Brady. ‘‘The word started to spread. I’m just looking out for the kids, if they want to get worked, I’ll put them to work.”

‘‘This is my foundation,” Williams said. ‘‘This is what I’ve been doing since I was in high school, since I was at Maryland, and now that I’m in the pros, why change? Like the old cliché, ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’”

E-mail Derek Toney at dtoney@gazette.net.