NFL coaches highlight Vail Summer Football camp. Former Cowboys head coach Chan Gailey heads this year’s lineup |

NFL coaches highlight Vail Summer Football camp. Former Cowboys head coach Chan Gailey heads this year’s lineup

Tom Backhus' Vail Summer Football Camp has been a Vail Valley institution for more than two decades. Former NFL coaches top this year's coaching lineup.
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If You Go

What: Vail Summer Football Camp

When: July 9-12

Price: $100 for 2nd-5th graders, $135 for 6th-12th graders, with discounts for multiple teammates registering together

To register: Go to, call Tom Backhus at 970-471-0440, or email

Information: Camp is held in two sessions, one for kids 2nd through 5th grade, and one for 6th through 12th graders.

Video of individual 6-12th grade players will be reviewed daily with the players and coaches after practice.

A certified athletic trainer will be on the field throughout the camp

It is a non-pad, non-hitting camp based on technique work, agility drills and a better understanding of the game

EAGLE COUNTY — Former NFL head and assistant coaches top the roster for this year’s Vail Summer Football Camp.

Chan Gailey, former head coach with the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills, and Steve Fairchild, an NFL quarterbacks coach, top the lineup of coaches from around Colorado and the country.

“There’s not another camp out there that even comes close to this kind of camp instruction and exposure to coaches,” said Tom Backhus, a former national championship player and Division I coach who has run the camp for two decades.

There are still a few spots left for players to sign up for the camp, Backhus said.

It’s all about instruction

The four-day camp features non-pad technique instruction, and youth coaches are invited to come to the camp and spend time on the field picking the brains of the college coaches who will be offering their knowledge, Backhus said.

“That’s open to coaches at any level, youth leagues, middle school, high school — any coach at any level,” Backhus said. “Coaches can ask questions about technique and training, drills and anything else, while players are getting excellent instruction from top-flight coaches.”

The camp breaks players into two sessions: players in grades two through five and players who are in sixth- through 12th-grade.

Every player plays every position in the session for the younger kids.

“Even the short kids get to play quarterback, and that’s something I completely understand,” said Backhus, who won a national championship at Ohio State and played under Woody Hayes. Backhus also coached at the Air Force Academy and Notre Dame.

The practices for the older kids are broken down into positions and captured on video. They finish the session by watching the film to improve their technique, Backhus said.

Backhus started his coaching career on Hayes’ Ohio State staff, and continued coaching there when Earle Bruce took over as the head coach after Hayes retired. Backhus followed Bruce to coach on the staffs at the University of Tampa and then Iowa State. Backhus left Bruce when he went to the University of Wisconsin.

Bill Parcells hired Backhus at the U.S. Air Force Academy to be the Cadets’ offensive line coach, and eventually the offensive coordinator.

After the Air Force Academy, Backhus coached at Notre Dame.

He landed in Vail after the Notre Dame stint. He started visiting the valley when he was with the Air Force Academy.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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