Local athletes turn out for annual football camp

Published 12:05 am Sunday, April 22, 2012

Zyon Smith makes a one-handed catch as other camp participants look on during drills Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Children ages 8 to 12 years old came out for the camp that included high school coaches, college and professional players. -- Robert Hudson

Past, present and future football stars gathered at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, as a local athlete continued to give back to his community.

The 3rd Annual Michael Johnson Youth Football & Cheer Camp was held Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Boys ages 8 to 17 participated in the football camp and learned from coaches and players including Robert Gathers and Brandon Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, Clinton McDonald of the Seattle Seahawks, and of course Bengal’s defensive end and Selma native Michael Johnson.

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College players from Georgia Tech, Louisville, Samford and Tuskegee, among others, as well as coaches from local high schools such as Southside and Morgan Academy also helped out with the camp.

Johnson said it feels to good to give back to the city he loves.

“It feels real good. I’m very blessed and privileged to be able to do this and to be in this position to talk to kids, and I’m just thankful for everybody’s support, the community, and everybody behind me,” Johnson said. “It’s just all love. I love my city.”

Johnson said this year’s camp was the best one yet, and it continues to bring children from all around the area together.

“Turnout is great. Everybody’s just really starting to join in and I’m just happy to see it going the way it’s going, and I’m just glad everybody has come out to be a part of it because this ain’t just a Michael Johnson youth football camp, this is a Selma-Dallas County youth football camp,” Johnson said. “It’s all about these kids from this area in the Black Belt coming out and being around some high school, college, pro players and coaches, and learning all together and how to work with each other all from different backgrounds.”

Johnson said one of the main messages he tries to convey to children with the camp is to continue to pursue excellence and try to do the best you can at what you do.

“The goal is excellence. Shoot for the moon, you’ll land somewhere in the stars,” Johnson said. “Always try your hardest in whatever you’re doing whether it’s in school, whether it’s playing sports, or it’s being a better person. Whatever it is, shoot for excellence.”

Athletes in attendance participated in passing, catching, footwork and pursuit drills among others.

12-year-old Kendarious Smitherman said he learned skills from the camp that can help him be like the players he looks up to.

“I learned how to center my hands so that I can be a better running back and so that I can be a better cornerback,” Smitherman said,” to catch the ball so I can make it to the NFL and be like Michael Johnson. Like all the other people say, I want to be like Mike.”

Football techniques and skills weren’t the only things participants took away from the camp, as they learned some life lessons, too.

“I learned that you’ve got to listen in school and never act up,” said 9-year-old Kelton Davis. “Then someday, if you do that, it’ll take you a long way.”