The NFL High School Player Development camp presented by the National Guard from Tuesday through Thursday was about more than just football.
Conducted at Evans High School under the watchful eye of camp director and Knights’ head football coach Marty Jackson, the camp dealt with issues such as time management, bullying, concussion awareness and social media as well as providing three days of free football instruction. Schools participating were Burke County, Evans, Grovetown, Hephzibah, Josey and Thomson. Players on the field numbered 230 or more each day.
“We’re trying to educate, too,” said Jackson. “Competition is fun, but we’re talking about character and education, too. And it’s fun to compete, get to know these guys other than trying to beat their brains out and now we’re kind of working together. It’s been fun, I love it.”
Former NFL star and current NFL HSPD regional director Billy “White Shoes” Johnson kicked things off Tuesday night talking about character development and social media among other topics. His message resonated.
“He went into a lot of detail about the social media stuff,” said Evans senior offensive/defensive lineman Nick Lanham. “You’ve got to watch yourself. I watch myself now.”
Out on the field, under the watchful eyes of coaches from each of the high schools, the players warmed up, had a period of drills and instruction by position then participated in 7-on-7 passing tournaments and lineman competitions each day.
During a break in a 2-on-1 pass blocking drill, Grovetown junior offensive/defensive lineman D’Ante Smith thought camaraderie was what he was taking away from the camp.
“I’m bonding with my team,” Smith said. “I’m learning how we should communicate with one another. Just getting better.”
Grovetown head coach Rodney Holder liked that his guys got to compete against other teams and that the NFL provided the camp gratis.
“The thing about it is the NFL is giving this to the kids, it’s not costing them a dime,” said Holder.
“Free work in a three-day camp. Nine hours. That’s going to set you $400 to $500 a kid back at a university. The NFL and the National Guard are giving it to them, which is amazing. It’s neat.”
Jackson was just as happy as Holder.
“The kids get stuff – jerseys, a planner,” Jackson said. “The coaches get a package. The NFL does it right.”