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Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.

Prep football - Valparaiso at Portage

Reece Crossin of Valparaiso is among the local players who have worked with Bil Reagan and Top Gun Quarterback Training, which will hold a camp Thursday through Saturday at Hobart High School.

Don't tell Bill Reagan you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Even after 40-plus years of playing and coaching football, the former St. Joseph's College quarterback and coach has found that the acquisition of knowledge is unceasing.

"It's ironic," Reagan said. "Since I retired three years ago, I've learned so much. I've had more time to focus on one thing."

That "one thing" is Reagan's Top Gun Quarterback Training, an endeavor he started in 2003 as a hobby while working in the athletic department at Notre Dame.

"I've never enjoyed doing anything more," he said.

Reagan set career records for passing touchdowns, completion percentage and passing yards with the Pumas. It was back in Rensselaer during a decade as head coach when he began to gain acclaim for his offensive mind and quarterback tutelage. He also spent six years at Division II power Ashland (Ohio) prior before catching on at Notre Dame as director of football operations in 2001.

"I was putting away money from my coaching jobs for my retirement," Reagan said. "I used it all."

Fifteen years later, the investment has proven fruitful. Top Gun Quarterback Training is now a year-round endeavor for Reagan, who started a nine-site junket of mini-camps May 30 in Dallas. He has also been to Chardon, Ohio; Edinboro, Pennsylvania; and Stevensville, Michigan in advance of this week's stop in Hobart. The camp will run Thursday through Saturday, and will be followed by a July 9-11 stay in South Bend.

"I had two guys from Hobart at The Courts (of NWI in Valparaiso) and (former Hobart coach) Ryan Turley asked me if I'd come to Hobart," Reagan said. "The folks are great. It's a nice facility. The coaches understand I'm here to help the kids. Some of the best fits are high school coaches who aren't quarterback guys."

Last season, Reagan had 42 starters from the southwest Michigan, Michiana and Northwest Indiana area, including standouts like Portage's Anthony Maceo, Michigan City's Michael McCullough and Lake Central's Zach Bundalo.

"A big thing with me was, when I'd drop back, I'd hitch forward and get up on my toes," said Wheeler's Griffin Belt, who worked with Reagan at The Courts. "He fixed it and I got everything down where I'm throwing further and more accurate.

"He'll try to keep the groups small where he can watch you on every snap. It's a nice environment. Everybody's welcoming. You learn from the other guys who have been there, too. It's really been beneficial. Overall, it's made me a better player."

Reagan holds sessions for grades 5-8 and high school, emphasizing the importance of young players getting their technique right at an early age before they establish bad habits. That's also the group where numbers are light for his Hobart camp.

"These young quarterbacks need development more than anyone and if they don't start earlier than high school, Northwest Indiana will never see that high level of quarterbacking it deserves," he said. "At the camp in Stevensville, the kids were all new, they hadn't been taught one thing, they all had horrible mechanics. By the end of three days, you could see we had affected change. That's what we're trying to do."

The concepts are valuable to any offense, whether the scheme is 98 percent running or 98 percent passing.

"I met with Dave Sharpe at LaPorte and I told him, a team may throw one pass in a game but if it's in the regional, you want to get it where it's supposed to go," Reagan said. "Plus, it's good for down the road if a kid has a chance to play in college."

In addition to the small numbers, Reagan's camps are aimed at skill development rather than competition.

"It's unique for its personal contact, short lines or no lines," he said. "I've done bigger camps. I directed the Notre Dame camps. They're more performance-oriented. We're fundamentals-based, footwork, mechanics, throwing. Some people don't think you need it. (Rams quarterback) Jared Goff had no real training. He was miserable his first year and the next year, he made the Pro Bowl."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

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