MALDEN, Mass. -- Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman and Malden High graduate Breno Giacomini was back in town this weekend running his annual three-day youth football minicamp, at MacDonald Memorial Stadium, and as usual the big guy couldn't stop smiling.
The former high school basketball center's journey to the NFL, from Malden to Louisville to Green Bay and now Seattle, is quite a unique story. Giacomini was intent on heading to prep school for basketball when one day, in mid-January, he got a call from Bobby Petrino, who was sent game film of his Thanksgiving performance against Medford. Six days later, with no other Division 1 scholarship offers in either sport, he committed to the Cardinals, eventually getting on to the field first as a blocking tight end, and finally a tackle as a senior.
So of course, the jolly Giacomini hasn't forgotten his roots, and cherishes these moments. At one point, the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder entered the one-on-one circle and dusted it up with a few of the Golden Tornadoes' top linemen (without pads, obviously). Take a wild guess what the outcome was.
"This is awesome. This is great," he said. "It was what, a hundred something [degrees] on Friday, and these kids are out here, it's unbelievable. I'm gonna try to keep this going as long as possible. This is something I love to do. All these kids seem to love it, the parents, I've always got good comments, so I'm just going to...hopefully this will keep growing and growing.
"It's something for the kids, man. It's free, you get your t-shirt, got some NFL guys here, what else could you want in July, know what I mean?"
Perhaps part of the excitement and energy stems from the anxious wait to get back on the field, as an end to the four-month lockout is reportedly imminent.
"I want this thing to end yesterday, so I can go back," Giacomini laughed. "Yeah, I'm excited, I've been working out here last few months. I'm excited, I want this thing to end fast. That's what I've been hearing, but you know, we've all been hearing the same thing."
Giacomini has been working out five days a week this month -- three days in the weight room, two conditioning at MacDonald Stadium -- and joined by a handful of players from the high school team each day. He's heading down to Louisville tomorrow for a few days, before reporting to Seattle (he hopes).
He's also brought his good buddy from college, Carolina Panthers tight end Gary Barnidge, who expressed similar sentiments as far as getting back on the field.
"You realize it really is a business, so you just stay patient, but it's good to be back," Barnidge said. "And once we all get situated and saddled up, we're ready to go. I think everybody's ready to go. I think everybody's itching to get back in, because I think we're usually in camp and ready to go right now."
Certainly it's been a trying offseason for Giacomini, who was signed by Seattle off the Packers' practice squad last September. Giacomini misses the camaraderie that comes with organized team workouts in most offseasons.
"The best thing I think for any student-athlete, or even professional, is that regimen," Giacomini said. "You know, where you gotta be, what time you gotta be where, and getting into that groove. It's been tough, man, not having an offseason, you know what I mean? You don't always have the guys around, that's one of the worst things is the locker room presence isn't there. It's gonna be an interesting season. It's definitely tough, though."
Barnidge participated in players-only workouts at a high school in Charlotte, N.C. earlier this offseason, and stressed the importance of getting that timing down and becoming familiar with the new system under new head coach Ron Rivera. Barnidge also spent a lot of time at his alma mater Middleburg (Fla.) High, where he had a key to the gym.
"Schedule-wise, I don't think it's that hard," Barnidge said. "Everybody knows you've got to stay in shape, keep working out and do everything right or you're not going to be playing very long."
Inspired by childhood ambitions and some mutual friends in college, Barnidge and Giacomini are teaming up to take football to one of the world's oldest civilizations next March.
Officially called the American Football Without Barriers camp, the two were given the idea by an Egyptian native and friend from their Louisville days, Ahmed Awadalah, and have begun to assemble a group of NFL players and coaches to come with them to Cairo, with hopes of success similar to what former Louisville teammate Amobi Okoye has had with his camp in Nigeria. Plans beyond 2012 could see them creating a camp in Brazil, where Giacomini's parents immigrated from.
A website and logo are currently in the works, but a Facebook page has been launched. Currently, the camp is scheduled to run from March 9 through March 17.
"It's all about giving back," he said. "We're trying to build the sport. Even over there, they don't know the sport. So we're trying to teach the kids, everybody, the sport over there. And we like doing it here. It's a lot of fun. It's all about giving back, because you never know, you can change someone's life just by saying 'Hey' to somebody. I love doing this."
So why Egypt? The country and its origins have been a lifelong fascination of Barnidge's since his days as a youth in Middleburg, Fla.; his father, who was in the Air Force, once came back from a trip to Egypt with some goodies for Gary, and the rest is history.
"I wanted to do archeology as my major in college, but I couldn't because it was only offered in the afternoon and that's when football practice is," Barnidge said. "So, it's kinda hard. But I want to go back and get some kind of work field in archeology, I don't know, something. Just something about Egyptian history is amazing to me. All the historical pieces, the Pyramids, the Nile...just everything.
"Everything's awesome over there, I'm going to love it. It'll be a great trip and a dream come true. And I get to teach these kids the sport I love to play."
Registration for camp starts on September 1 and will end January 1, 2012. For more information, contact GridironEgypt@gmail.com or Ahmadelrefaey@gmail.com.