By Jim O'Hara
ROME--For the second straight year, those who dream about playing in the NFL will learn what it takes to play the game on the professional level from those who have accomplished the feat when Shorter University plays host next week to the second annual Kids & Pros Youth Football Camp.
Yet what is of even more importance when the young players hit the turf at Ben Brady Field is that they will learn what kind of character it takes to make it not just on the field, but off of it as well.
“One of the most important things is that each night we have one of the NFL players speak on the character principle for that day,” former Atlanta Falcons linebacker Buddy Curry, who along with ex-Falcon standout Bobby Butler created the non-profit Kids & Pros camp 11 years ago, said about the camp that returns to Shorter for a four-day run starting Monday from 6-9 p.m.
“Our character principles are sportsmanship, integrity, excellence, perseverance, and teamwork,” said Curry, “and it is really cool to see these parents with all ears listening to the pros talking to their kids.”
Certainly, the kids will be all ears when the pros pass along the knowledge and skills they have learned to become successful in the game.
Once again, four men whose roots are in Rome and all members of the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame will return to be a part of the staff of pros on hand to work with the young players who range in age from 7 to 13 – Larry Kinnebrew, Nat Hudson, Todd Wheeler and Ken Irvin.
A graduate of East Rome High, where he was a star running back and a state track and wrestling champion, Kinnebrew played for seven years in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills.
Hudson made his mark as an offensive lineman, becoming an All-State standout at West Rome High, and was a member of the 1980 Georgia Bulldogs national championship team. He went on to play in the NFL for the Saints, Baltimore Colts and Buccaneers.
Wheeler was a star lineman at Georgia where the Pepperell High All-State product became legendary as head coach Vince Dooley’s final team captain. He went on to play with the Saints.
Irvin, who also prepped at Pepperell High and starred at Memphis State, spent 10 years in the NFL playing for the Bills, Saints and the Vikings and became one of the most highly respected cornerbacks in the league.
In addition, former Pepperell High standout Marcus Dixon will be on hand for Tuesday’s session. After establishing himself as a star at Hampton University, Dixon went on to play with the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets and is now with the Kansas City Chiefs hoping to earn a spot on the roster and help the team.
The Tuesday workout will also feature current coaches and players of the Atlanta Falcons who will share their knowledge and experience with those attending the camp, one of a number of Kids & Pros camps that are being held throughout the southeast this summer.
“We’re really looking forward to hosting Kids & Pros again,” said Shorter assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Tim Mathis, who along with other members of the Hawks’ coaching staff will also be on hand to work with the campers. “It’s great that the kids can learn about the game from the pros but it’s just as important they hear about the kind of character it takes to be successful in anything they do.”
Mathis said that slots for the camp are still available and those interested can register by contacting him by phone at 706-233-7522 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Walk-up registration will also be held on Monday at Brady Field prior to the start of the first session.