Audio Slide Show
Slide Show: Kids and Pros Football Camp, by Rich Cooley/Daily
By Brad Fauber - email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Buddy Curry saw an opportunity for something special while attending a youth football camp hosted by former NFL teammate Bobby Butler in Georgia more than a decade ago.
Curry, who played eight seasons at linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons from 1980-87, was amazed at how Butler and the other former professional football players who joined him passionately fed their knowledge of the game to the children in attendance. But Curry wanted to take the concept of the youth football camp a step further by making it about more than simply learning the fundamentals.
"I said, 'Golly, we can take this, and then let's add a character component,'" Curry said. "We all were retired at that point, we all were doing other businesses, and the things we learned playing football transcend the game and helped us to be successful in business."
Curry and Butler turned that into a reality when they founded the "Kids and Pros" youth football experience in 2002. The program focuses on teaching not only the physical tools to being successful on the field, but life lessons that can be taken away from the sport of football, and Curry invites past and current NFL players to help him accomplish that.
The program began as a single camp in its founding year, but quickly grew to include over 20 camps per year in five states. Starting Tuesday and ending Friday this week, the camp made its first appearance in the Shenandoah Valley, offering local youth football players the unique opportunity to work closely with a former professional athlete. "Kids and Pros" rolled into Woodstock on Tuesday afternoon for a four-day skills and conditioning camp at Central High School, and Curry was greeted by around 85 youth athletes and nearly 40 parents.
Curry brought with him six former NFL players, including Fulton Walker and Wayne Wilson, who both live in West Virginia, and former Central quarterback Kenny Lambiotte, who played a year in the pros with the Philadelphia Eagles. Curry carefully selects which former professionals he will invite to participate in the program's different camps, preferring to have what he refers to as "high-character guys" who have experience working with young children.
"It's something that I've been doing all my life, pretty much, when I got out of professional football," Wilson said on Tuesday. "These kids are the foundation. If they've got things to do positive, you want to get involved, so down the road if you're reading about them, you're reading about something positive."
"Kids and Pros" provides young athletes between the ages of 7 and 13 with position-specific drills, each led by a former NFL player, that teach developing players the proper techniques for different on-field situations. Each day ends with a life story, told by one of the professionals, which demonstrates the importance of carrying the proper attitude through not just football, but in life as a whole. It doesn't matter that most of the campers in attendance have probably never heard of any of the former professionals in attendance -- the mere fact that they are on the same field with a real NFL player is enough to get anyone excited.
"It's pretty cool -- it's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said 11-year-old Declan Franklin, who participates in the Woodstock/Edinburg youth football program. "I'm trying to get more strength for defense and trying to learn more about offense so I know what to do against them."
The "Kids and Pros" experience isn't just a learning experience for the kids. Each former pro is joined by at least one youth league coach, providing the youth coaches with the chance to learn specific drills that can be used by the area's youth programs in the future.
"It's good for me, it's good for my coaching staff," said Brian Tingler, president of the Woodstock/Edinburg youth football program. "They've been great throughout the years -- it's always a way to improve and learn through these guys."
The opportunity to bring the "Kids and Pros" camp to the region first arose when Kenny Rinker, Central's athletic director, got in touch with Curry after one of his camps in Rustburg last year.
Rinker kept in contact with Curry, eventually asking him what it would take to bring the camp to Shenandoah County. Curry visited the area last October and met with youth league coaches from the county, and it was eventually decided that the camp could be a success with the right amount of community support.
Now that Rinker has successfully brought the ever-growing program to the area, he hopes to continue to make the "Kids and Pros" experience a yearly event.
"It's a good thing for the kids to see something from a different aspect, in that there are actually professional players here," Rinker said. "The second thing is, we have little league coaches that are here serving as understudies. If they go away with one or two things from this that they can take back and incorporate into their programs, that's a positive."
The Shenandoah County camp ended on Friday, and if Curry has his way, the local youth football players will leave the field with not only a better grasp of what it takes to be successful on the field, but a better sense of what it takes to be successful in life.
"We want our guys to share their life with the kids, create a life story and share with them the things that helped make them successful," Curry said. "Because these kids, when we look on TV, we see these [professional football players] on the field making magnificent plays, but we don't really know what they're like behind doors."