More Than Plays and PassesJuly 26, 2006
By Steven Zimmerman, Post and Courier
As another hot summer day comes to a close, 275 high school football players prepare to play one last time.
It is the last day of a three-day camp hosted by Charleston Southern University, and students from 12 schools have just spent the last three hours running plays, practicing passes and sizing each other up.
But the annual camp is more than just a chance for these students to analyze their competition before the fall football season.
It is an opportunity for athletes to develop good sportsmanship, earn respect and learn about the spiritual side of football.
Each summer, CSU hosts this preseason passing league football camp for local high school teams. The camp, held last week, helps players keep in shape during the summer months and gives them a chance to challenge other local teams in a competitive but friendly environment.
"We want it to be a lot of fun, but we also want to prepare these teams for their fall training camps," says Jay Mills, head football coach at CSU. "These teams are practicing their offensive plays and their passing game, and they are getting a chance to compete against each other. Some of these schools might not get a chance to play against each other in the regular season."
This summer marks the fourth year of the camp, which is open to both public and private schools. Although CSU hosts the camp, coaches and assistant coaches from each school participate and work with their own players.
The camp is three hours long for three nights in a row. Each team plays four scrimmages a night in a 7-on-7 passing league format. The two teams with the best records compete in a "championship" game at the end of the camp.
"It was good. There was a lot of learning," says Caron Trotter, 17, from North Charleston High School. "There is a lot of talent out there, but you just come out and fight your best."
"It was a great camp. It gave me an opportunity to show what I can do," says Fred Lewis, 17, from Burke High School.
CSU wanted to provide students with more than just a chance to practice.
This year the school partnered with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a nonprofit organization that preaches a Christian message to coaches and young athletes.
"This is the first year that we have partnered with CSU for this camp," says Emmett Morgan, the FCA's Lowcountry area director. "They run the camp, and we take care of refreshments, giveaways and provide a Gospel message at the end of each day."
The FCA sponsored a different guest speaker to conclude the camp activities each evening. Speakers included orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kenny Caldwell, a Citadel graduate and former three-time football Academic All-American, and Wayne Caparas, a former Goose Creek High and Furman football player.
On Wednesday, former NFL tight end Wesley Walls, who played with the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, gave a speech about what it takes to be a successful athlete.
"I am always humbled when I am given an opportunity to come out here and talk to young athletes and give them advice on how to be a better football player and, more importantly, a better person," says Walls.
In his speech, Walls outlined the five characteristics of a successful football player: preparation, respect, industriousness, discipline and enthusiasm. Walls finished by talking about the importance of religion and spirituality and how it has impacted his life.
Now that the camp is over, students and coaches begin the heavy preparation for the upcoming football season. Mills hopes that students will remember what they've learned over the last three days, both physically and spiritually.
"I think we've been very blessed with the people we have had come speak to us," says Mills. "It's good to have people from different walks of life with different perspectives that can relate to these young men and help build them a road map toward some of the goals that they have."