PORT ARTHUR —
One by one, the kids ran through the drill.
Over the blocking dummies lying on the ground.
Under the hurdles.
Around the cones.
Waiting for them, just behind those hurdles was a familiar face who’s giving back to his home town.
“I saw in their faces that they’re glad to be here, that they’re having a good time,” Kansas City running back and former Texas Longhorn and Port Arthur Memorial Titan Jamaal Charles said at his fourth annual Jamaal Charles “Family Matters” Foundation football camp.
“I’m glad I’m giving back to the community. It’s an amazing thing that I can give out free shirts, free short, a free bag and free food without charging anyone. Most camps charge kids, but we’re not charging one person here to join this camp.”
The two-day camp, which is free to all participants, is a hit with kids of all ages. Some of Charles’ NFL friends joined him, including Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins, Tampa Bay’s Danny Gorrer and more. For Charles, part of the fun in the camp is the 175 participants getting to interact with an NFL player without his helmet on.
“At that age, most guys see me with a helmet on on TV,” Charles said. “But, to recognize me with my helmet off, that’s pretty cool. Going out there and playing with them, it means the world not just to me but to every player out here for this event. They get to learn not just from a coach, or their mama, but someone who made it in the NFL who they can look up to.”
Charles has fun with the smaller kids, chasing them around this drill and talking to them as they grab a drink of water. He also has time to offer tips on technique to the older boys as they go through drills.
It’s all in an effort to give back, something he’s wanted to do since his days at the University of Texas.
“It’s a great reward to come out here and help Jamaal,” Derrick Scott, who runs the camp with Clutch Sports and was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at UT when Charles was there, said. “This is something he told me he wanted to do when he was a freshman at Texas. It’s a great reward to be a part of this.”
The camp focuses on different football drills while also providing plenty of opportunities for players to have fun. One such drill simulated a punt return, with three players running down in coverage and a fourth try to break past them and score.
Others, like the obstacle course over dummies and around cones, are all about agility. The tricky thing, according to Scott, is balancing the drills with enough fun to keep the younger group interested. At the same time, the goal of the camp is simple: teach the kids that hard work pays off.
“We want to teach these kids that hard work pays off, no matter whether it’s on the football field, the baseball diamond or in the classroom,” Scott said. “We want to teach them how to listen, learn how to focus and how to learn. It’s tough dealing with all age groups. The little kids’ attention spans are shorter than the older kids. But, the surprising thing is the smaller ones can learn, so we don’t treat them too differently, but we sent the same message. The earlier they learn that hard work pays off, the better they’ll be.”
Nearly two years removed from his knee injury, Charles said this year’s camp has been much more fun, since he is able to interact more with the campers without worrying about it.
“I couldn’t really do what I wanted to do last year,” Charles said. “I couldn’t be out here every day because my knee would be sore and I had to ice it up. I couldn’t really run last year without it hurting me, but I didn’t let anyone see. Now that I’m out here, I can play with the kids and enjoy myself.”
Ultimately, though, Friday and Saturday is about giving back to his home town.
“We had a lot of good people to come out and we had a good turnout,” Charles said. “It’s been amazing so far. It’s a blessing that they’re parents took the time to bring their kids here and take advantage of this opportunity.”