‘Really, really, really fulfilling’: Former Bow football players honor Nick Ouellette through football camp

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 08-12-2023 11:12 AM

When Ryan Lover asked his former Bow football teammate Teddy Pfeifle to help him run a football camp last summer, it was a no-brainer.

After all, this wasn’t just any ordinary football camp. Named Camp 55, it would serve as a tribute to their friend Nick Ouellette, who’d died along with his brother Gavin in a car accident just a few months earlier and wore number 55 as a member of the Falcons.

Pfeifle graduated Bow in June 2022; Lover followed suit this past June. The camp, which began last summer, was his senior project.

They decided to run the program back for a second summer, and the current session wraps up this weekend.

Camp 55 isn’t the only Bow senior project that’s paid tribute to the Ouellette family. Former lineman Cole McLaughlin raised $10,000 to create a brick patio next to the football field, with proceeds going to the Ouellette Family Scholarship Fund.

The number 55 has only taken on extra meaning in the Bow community, with this football camp the foremost example.

“I think it’s really, really, really fulfilling to be able to go out and to know that the Ouellette family is really proud of it, and I know they really appreciate it,” Pfeifle said. “It’s just one more thing that’s happening in town to honor these two boys, something that is really, really sad.

“It’s good to try to keep the memory alive and make sure that people remember them down the line.”

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Camp 55 welcomes kids from first through eighth grade, mostly from Bow but also from neighboring towns such as Hopkinton and Hillsboro. The main goal, Lover said, is to help them build confidence in their game, particularly the eighth graders who are preparing to become part of the high school varsity program.

They’ll run through conditioning drills and plays Lover and Pfeifle ran as Bow varsity players. With no pads, there are some limits to how much they can do, but it’s all about those basic fundamentals.

“I hope they can go into the football season more confident than if they were not to go to the camp,” said Lover, who represented Bow at last weekend’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl all-star game at Castleton (Vt.) University. “If they don’t go the camp, they get into the season with no running head start. They get confused on the first week.”

It also serves as a boost for the coaches if players participate in this type of training over the summer. Instead of needing to start from scratch, the experience these players develop over the course of the summer means more opportunities to build and grow during the season.

And for the youngest participants, they have the chance to see how the older kids approach things, giving them something to aspire to one day as well.

“We’ve all been there at one point where you’re like, ‘Oh, I want to be like that kid when I’m that age,’ so I think it actually works out really well,” Pfeifle said.

Running through plays from the Bow playbook also serves a valuable purpose. This way, when any of the kids at the camp start playing for the varsity program, there’s already some familiarity with plays and how to run them.

“Having the perspective that we had, being around the high school program for four years, seeing how the high school teaches the system and being able to help the younger kids learn it now, it’s going to help them down the road for sure,” Pfeifle said.

As Lover and Pfeifle know well, though, football is much more than just being able to execute a halfback dive or a wide receiver screen. For most of the varsity players who won’t play football beyond the high school level, the life lessons they acquire from playing the sport should be a focus of the experience.

“I think that teaching these kids to be disciplined and make sure that we’re doing everything 100% of the time on and off the field, I think that’s one of the biggest parts of youth sports,” Pfeifle said. “One of our bigger roles is making sure that we’re instilling those qualities into our players, but then also I think to build on that, going out there, having some fun and becoming better players and young men. I think that’s what it’s really all about.”

Even though Pfeifle will begin his sophomore year at Bentley University and Lover’s about to start his freshman year at Southern New Hampshire University, this weekend won’t be the last of Camp 55.

Initially expected to be just a one-summer project, they plan to continue the program into a third summer next year and beyond.

“We obviously don’t want that type of attention on us, but it just feels good knowing we can keep (Ouellette’s) name and number going because he was such a great player,” Lover said. “It’s good to keep his name rolling, and it makes us feel better knowing that we’re helping kids out, we’re helping coaches out and we’re also keeping his name and legacy alive.

“It really means a lot to us.”

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