NFL player Sean Weatherspoon and SPOONful of Hope Youth Football Camp
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Over two hundred and fifty star-struck students journeyed out to the JHS practice fields bright and early Saturday morning, traveling from as far as Louisiana. There, behind the field house, the youth anxiously gathered with their eager, videotaping families. And, with good reason.9am, sharp: a hushed lull overcame the crowd's gossip; not even the nervous chattering of teeth could be heard. "There he is!" little voices exclaimed in repetition, mimicking Christmas time excitement, "That's Sean Weatherspoon!"
With his iconic friendly smile, Atlanta Falcons' linebacker and proud Jasper native Sean Weatherspoon, along with more than twelve other NFL and college football players, welcomed the wide-eyed campers, aged 5-17, and their families to the 3rd annual SPOONful of Hope Foundation's Youth Football Camp.
Making himself at home, Weatherspoon told his childhood story of growing up in Jasper, where he began his football career and was once in the campers' shoes.
Garbed in their new Weatherspoon, number 56 jerseys, the campers began the day with a muscle-warming stretch, then divided in to smaller training groups by age division, and continued on in to skill-specific stations and drills.
Weatherspoon, a self-proclaimed "big kid" among kids, hopped around the practice fields from station to station, enthusiastically coaching campers along the way.
"Sean loves Jasper," Weatherspoon's mother,Elwanda Weatherspoon commented, "He's so happy to be back in his hometown where he has the opportunity to give back to the youth of the community."
For the duration of time spent in stations, campers learned how to improve and hone their skills from some of football's best, including some of JHS' own Bulldogs. The players and coaches led the campers through a circuit of 7 strenuous offensive and defensive drills each executed 3 times.
With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, hydration was key Saturday. Sweat streaming down his face, Weatherspoon laughed, "Man, I forgot how hot it gets here!" After running a series of sprints, Weatherspoon sent the camp's youngest group of football hopefuls on a water break, to which the young campers cheered in unison: "We LOVE Gatorade!" and raced each other to the water tent. Albeit the extreme heat, the campers' morale remained high throughout the day.
At the completion of their station rotations, campers had the opportunity to implement their newly acquired skills in a game of 7-on-7, and compete for the fastest 40-yard race time.
Weatherspoon used the 7-on-7 game as time to inspire the campers. Using his fellow Atlanta Falcons teammate Jacquizz Rodgers as an example, Weatherspoon illustrated to the campers that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible; no dream is too big. Rodgers, an Atlanta Falcons running back, has had an extremely successful NFL career despite his less-than-average height of 5'6".
Brimming with new skills and perspectives, the campers enjoyed cooling off and talking football during their lunch break.
For the highly anticipated final event, campers were able to get autographs from Weatherspoon and other NFL, college, and Bulldogs players, including fellow Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters.
Equipped with enhanced skills, knowledge, and autographs, the campers headed home after a successful day of learning with encouraged smiles and mentalities, ready to start the upcoming school year's football season.
Weatherspoon was enthusiastic about the camp's success: "I grew up in Jasper, so the kids here are incredibly important to me. I wanted this camp to give these kids an opportunity to realize their full potentials. They've all worked really hard today; everyone has improved. It was a great day."
At the end of the day, just a "SPOONful of Hope" really is all it takes for a kid to realize his true potential.
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