“It’s a great thing for the community,” declared North High Football Coach Charles Adams of the day-long football camp held on his home field June 25. An estimated 200 boys (ages 8-12) — nearly half were walk-ups — participated in “techniques and qualities critical to developing as a leader both on and off the football field” at no cost, during the first annual Marcus Williams Leadership Football Camp in North Minneapolis.
It can’t be said enough that positive things constantly go on in North Minneapolis. “When things are going good, people sometimes don’t want to recognize that. But we know what the value is in this community. It’s always good to have positive things. It’s about the kids, and it is about us giving back to where we came from,” noted Adams of Williams (New York Jets) and John Crockett (Green Bay) who, like Adams, are native Northsiders.
If you are from the Northside, you have a “soft spot in your heart” for the area, noted the coach. “This is where we came from. It is a humbling experience to give back to something that produces you.”
“We’re coming from the same place they come from,” said Williams. “We’re from the North side of Minneapolis.”
Only North Dakota State University showed enough interest in Williams to offer a scholarship after he graduated from high school. He finished as the school’s most decorated defensive back in NDSU history. He didn’t get drafted but Williams will begin his third NFL season this fall, his second with the Jets.
Crockett also played at North Dakota State, and also went undrafted. He completed his first pro season in 2015 at Green Bay. “We all are born and raised here,” he added during Saturday’s camp, which was held in 80-degree temperatures.
“The key message is leadership,” continued Jeff Williams, who served as camp director, which was staffed by at least 20 local coaches and current high school players. “It’s really important for these young folk to see these guys made it out of the neighborhood and into the NFL, and willing to give back. The turnout is good for the first time. We did it on short notice.”
“It is a camp that can show them they can be leaders. We want to be that face they can be familiar with,” explained Marcus.
Furthermore, the kids got the opportunity to see NFL players close up, which, in too many cases, and for so many reasons, might be the only time they’ll get to reach out and touch them.
“That was my main goal,” admitted Marcus. “These kids can actually see our faces and know who we are, and not just to see us on TV.”
Crockett advised the Northside youngsters that whether in sports or in life they can succeed as well. “We are trying to show some values and leadership. We are encouraging the kids that they can be somebody,” he said.
Camps like these “give you your first taste of football, and you see if it is for you. Some kids will find a knack for it,” he said. “This brings the virtual to the reality.”
Laneka Rogers’ 8-year-old son Daryl Rogers was among the camp youngsters: “He loves football,” she told the MSR. “It’s a good opportunity for him to see the leadership and them giving back to the community, and showing him the importance for the ones behind us to teach them. That’s a plus that they are in the NFL and he can get to see them here today in our community.”
The camp hopefully did what Marcus Williams and others had hoped: “This is when they are learning what they want to be and what path to go,” he proudly pointed out. “We want to make sure to help them take the right path in school and whatever else they want to be.”
Crockett says he and several other NFLers from this area want to “impact others.”
“I am not trying to get something back from this. I’m doing this for the kids. It’s for the community,” concluded Marcus Williams.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.