For the past three years, former Graceville football player Anthony "Champ" Kelly comes back to the community that raised him to give back by throwing a football camp. But Kelly's C.H.A.M.P. Camp is more then just about football, it's about teaching the kids skills to succeed in life, and who better to do that then former football stars, some of whom played on Graceville's field just years ago.
The 3rd Annual CHAMP Camp wrapped up in Graceville today, with over 100 kids learning basic football fundamentals.
But the main purpose of the camp? To teach life lessons, as C.H.A.M.P. isn't just a nickname- it stands for character, heart, attitude, motivation, and pride.
"If we teach no football fundamentals but we can instill those core values to the kids, we've achieved what we wanted to achieve," says Kelly. "We're more then just role models to these kids. We have to be positive influences. We want them to imitate the things we're doing not only on the football field- but also in life."
"At first they can be kind of intimidating, because I mean, some of them have been to the pros," says Graceville rising senior CJ Miller. "They've been to where you want to go. It's good to learn from them and get feed back from them."
The best thing about Champ's football camp is that the kids get one on one attention from the coaches, many of whom played in college, some even in the NFL. But the most unique thing about them is that some of them are from the Panhandle, some even right here at Graceville High.
One of those back coaching on his old stomping grounds is JJ Laster, who just wrapped up a career at Jacksonville University. Laster is assisting at Nease High in Jacksonville, and looking to hopefully join a CFL team- but says it was an easy decision to give back to his alma mater.
"The kids love me," laughs Laster. "They can still tell me some of the plays I ran when I was in high school, so I enjoy coming back and having a good time with the local kids around."
"When we decided to have these camps, he was the first guy I contacted. I wanted the kids to see, this is little JJ Laster from Graceville who had a tough life, and they watched him grow and they watched him excel," says Kelly. "Now he's a college graduate, he's coaching football, and I wanted these guys to look. Here's a tangible example of what we can do if we stay focused, and we continue to work hard."
"I enjoy coming back, giving back to the kids and the community," says Laster. "I enjoy making them better people, and better person a lot."
Making the kids better people, and if they happen to become better football players, that's okay too.