As many around Hawai’i celebrated America’s Independence Day with some “ono” grinds, a handful of National Football League stars were grinding on the slopes of Kalaepohaku.
Honolulu’s Michael Bennett continued his HOP Training NFL camp on the campus of Saint Louis School, where more than 20 active players will join over the next three weeks.
Tuesday, a trio of former first-round draft pick defensive lineman were among the two-time Pro Bowler’s pupils. Brown’s defensive tackle Danny Shelton, 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead, and Punahou graduate and fellow 49ers lineman DeForest Buckner competed in bag, sled, and speed drills.
“We’re all out here trying to get better and Mike is out here working too.” Buckner said.
“We just got to learn from the great ones and he’s an All-Pro, he’s a Super Bowl champ, and he’s out here working on the holiday so we gotta be out here too trying to hone our craft.”
This is Buckner’s second-straight summer working with Bennett. In his rookie year of 2016 the 6’7″ 290 lb. Waianae native lead San Francisco’s defensive line playing 64.2 snaps-per-game with 73 tackles and 6 sacks. The productive campaign lead to being named NFC West rookie of the year by ESPN, and the league’s All-Rookie team by the Football Writers Association of America.
Bennett believes his divisional rival can rise to achieve the highest honors possible.
“I think DeForest, I’m lucky to be working with a guy like that.” Bennett said.
“I think DeForest will eventually be a defensive player of the year. I think he has the talent to be able to do that. I keep telling him there’s nobody like him. He’s not normal. His physique, his speed, it’s not normal so when you’re not normal you can do not normal things and winning the defensive MVP is not normal for most people.”
Buckner has used his role model’s recognition as motivation to join Bennett at the sport’s pinnacle.
“That’s what gives me a lot of confidence having a guy like him saying that I could be a potential MVP of the league one year, that means a lot. It makes me want to grind harder.”
“De-Fo” isn’t the only Hawai’i kid who will benefit from “Big Mike’s” tutelage this week. Bennett will host a free health expo and football camp this weekend.
The O.C.E.A.N. Sports Camp will take place Sunday, July 9, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Clarence T.C. Ching Field.
10 a.m. – Welcome/Mini Health Expo
11 a.m. – Family Health and Fitness Clinic
12 noon – Student-Athlete Football Camp
The Bennett Foundation is dedicated to addressing the increasing concerns of childhood obesity. Through their foundation, Michael and Pele Bennett have hosted family health events in Honolulu, Seattle and Houston to educate communities on how to battle this preventable disease.
The event is free, but each family member must be registered to attend the health and fitness clinic, and student-athletes ages 13-18 must register separately for the football camp.