NFL Players Go Camping

July 13, 2008By Will Garlick, VirginiaPreps.com

Summer camps are supposed to be fun and relaxing, but no one told that to the NFL players from around the Hampton Roads area who ran the 12th annual Peninsula NFL Players Football Camp. While the high school players, no doubt had a great time, this was no youth camp tailored for kids--this was the way a football camp should be run.
"It's a way for the NFL players from the Hampton Roads area have to give back," said Carl Francis, the Director of Communications for the NFL Players Association. "It's a way for the local community to get up and close with an NFL player."

The day started with the campers receiving nutrition info from William Blaber at Velocity Sports Performance, and scholarship info from Christopher Newport head coach Matt Kelchner who briefed the campers on the reality of playing Division I football.

The high schoolers received several other briefings, many of them having nothing to do with the correct way to run a route, or the mechanics of throwing a football. The focus of the camp was to teach life skills to make the high school players more productive as people.
"I talked to them less about NFL stuff because the reality is there might be one NFL player out here," Pittsburgh Steelers head football coach Mike Tomlin said. "I talked to them about what the football lifestyle will give them; how a commitment to football will help them make the right decision. We're here today to talk to them about being good people."'

The instructors ranged from current to former NFL players, as well as college and high school football coaches.
"I really enjoy it," said former New Orleans Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks. "I love the game. I just want to share the information I've learned with them. The more we can share with them, the more we can help them become better individuals and better players. That's what I'm all for."
Brooks took control of the quarterback drills with the help of current Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who has been attending the camp as a participant or instructor for more than 10 years.
"I learned a lot of stuff from Aaron Brooks that I still use today," Taylor told VirginiaPreps about his camp experience as a youth. "Things like dropping back, how to place your feet, and just overall confidence. A lot of the guys out here are great mentors and they know how to lead you in the right direction."

Between the water and Gatorade breaks, the high school players from Phoebus, Bayside, Bethel, Landstown, Smithfield, and Booker T. Washington just to name a few spent the morning learning from the best players from the Hampton Roads area.

"It seems like it was just yesterday that I was coming out here looking up to guys like Aaron Brooks and Brian Mitchell," Houston Texans linebacker Xavier Adibi said. "I use to say to myself when I was younger that if I was blessed to make it to the NFL, that I would try my best to give back to the community anyway that I could. When my brother told me about the camp, it was a no-brainer."
Clearly, the most animated instructor was Todd Kelly who won a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49er's. Kelly worked with the lineman, and watching the energy he had motivating, encouraging, and teaching the lineman during the blocking dummy drills almost made me want to get in line and run the gauntlet to hit the dummy. Almost!
"I was taught to always have fun, and I try to give 110% in everything I do," said Kelly who drove eight hours all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee to volunteer in the NFL camp. "Passion is what drives you. When I'm out there, the players feed off of it. They can take it out to Darling Stadium, Todd Stadium--they will be able to take it anywhere for the rest of their lives including the business world. People hire you because you have passion. They will look for that leadership."

The last session on the field was a 7-on-7 scrimmage where the campers were able to regurgitate some of the things they learned. The three hours in 90+ degree weather took its toll on the campers and many of the players were dragging before they ate their free lunch. However, all of them are in a better position as players than they were before the day started.

"You can always pick up something from an NFL player," said Phoebus star quarterback Tajh Boyd, a Rivals.Com 4-star prospect who already has a full scholarship to attend West Virginia University. "I didn't think I was going to learn anything, but I learned a lot. It was fun coming out here working hard and competing."

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