The Blue Hawk Football Camp took place June 16-18 on the Dickinson State University (DSU) campus.  Twenty teams comprising 560 athletes from grades 9-12 converged at the Biesiot Activities Center to hone their skills and strengthen team bonds.

DSU’s head football coach, Pete Stanton, outlined three primary goals for the camp: build relationships with high school programs, give team members an opportunity to bond, and create a competitive environment.  Stanton explained, “We set up the schedule to allow teams to play against opponents that they would not otherwise encounter during their regular season.”

The annual camp is also an opportunity for high school athletes to consider whether DSU might be the right fit for their collegiate careers. Stanton brings in current players and DSU coaches to help with the camp. These players take on significant roles, both on the field and off, assisting with the camp store and supervising dorm activities.

The coaches' days are long, running from 6:00 AM to 9:30 PM. However, they don’t do it alone. Coach Stanton expressed gratitude to campus housing, DSU food service, Sodexo, for feeding 600 hungry athletes, coaches, and staff through a food line within 45 minutes. Dickinson’s Coca-Cola Bottling Company provides hundreds of bottles of Powerade to camp participants.

Many coaches who bring their teams to the camp are part of the Dickinson State “coaching tree”—a term used to describe coaches who have played under an experienced coach and subsequently pursued their own coaching careers. Mark Gibson, a former All-Conference tight end and a 1990 DSU alumnus, is an example of this phenomenon. As the head coach at Bismarck High School, Gibson has brought his team to the camp every year since it began 25 years ago.

Gibson praised the camp, saying, “The Blue Hawk Football Camp is a great measuring stick to see where we are as a football team. It allows us to compete against top teams from across the region, including Montana. Coach Stanton, his staff, and the University roll out the red carpet for us. Our athletes receive valuable instruction from college coaches, current Blue Hawks, as well as other high school coaches. The camp is extremely well organized, and I would highly recommend it to any high school program in the area.”

Under Coach Stanton’s leadership, the Blue Hawks clinched their ninth consecutive North Star Athletic Association conference title in 2023, with an undefeated record of 8-0. This record makes the Blue Hawk football program a model for high school teams wanting to learn from a successful program and elevate their own level of play.

For more information on Dickinson State athletics, including football, please visit Photos of the 2024 Blue Hawk Football Camp can be found at 2024 Blue Hawk Football Camp | Flickr.