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CSU student receives passing tutelage from Coach McElwain

Jim McElwain and Billy Napier offer instruction to CSU student Kirk Bakalis before his big competition.

Jim McElwain and Billy Napier offer instruction to CSU student Kirk Bakalis before his big competition.

Aug. 28, 2012

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. –When Kirk Bakalis marched in the CSU band for two years, it likely seemed it would be the closest he would ever get to the football program.

That changed in a big way on Tuesday when he received first-hand training on his throwing motion from the Rams’ head coach, Jim McElwain. Bakalis was chosen to compete in the Dr. Pepper Tuition Throw Giveaway, and McElwain wanted to be sure he was prepared and confident heading into the competition. The winner receives $100,000 in tuition money.

“Any time we have the opportunity to help out a fellow Ram, a CSU student who is going to go represent CSU, Ft. Collins and the state of Colorado on a national stage, if we can help him just a little bit, that’s what it’s about,” McElwain said. “You can tell, as a music student, he did take instruction really well. He was focused and listened, so now it’s a matter of whether he can get enough repetitions before game time.”

Bakalis will travel to Dallas on Thursday and compete at Cowboys Stadium Saturday at the Cowboys Classic between Michigan and Alabama against four other contestants. Each will have the opportunity to throw the most footballs into a target from five feet away in 30 seconds. He learned about the competition by “liking” Dr. Pepper on Facebook, then submitted an audition video, and the next thing he knew he was receiving a call to compete.

The right-hander from San Luis Obispo, Calif., had been training by throwing a football into his closet. Monday he decided he needed to step up his training, and he contacted the CSU athletic department. By Tuesday afternoon he was standing on the practice field with Coach McElwain and the Rams’ assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Billy Napier.

“I gained a lot of confidence, that’s for sure,” Bakalis said. “It was a great feeling (working with the coaches). Knowing that they look out for students other than the football players is great, and knowing that they can make time for others. That helps me feel like I can help CSU better.”

The coaches first worked with him on his quickness and technique pulling the ball up to a throwing position, then focused on training his eyes on his target, rather than looking at the ball. Those points, along with some tips on footwork and release punctuated the 20-minute session. To McElwain’s point about getting enough repetitions, he invited Bakalis back to work on his craft during the afternoon practice.

“I’m a visual learner,” Bakalis said. “Once he threw it I was analyzing everything.”

You can learn more about the contest by visiting the following link.




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