Alabama football players coach Tuscaloosa youth at skills camp

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Mason Smith

During the fall, many people in Tuscaloosa spend their Saturdays cheering on the Alabama Crimson Tide football team in a packed Bryant-Denny Stadium.

This week, the roles were reversed as several University of Alabama football players participated in an inaugural Nike Youth Football Skills Camp, coaching young kids  between ages 8 to 18 in drills, 7-on-7 scrimmages and sharing advice about football and life.

“It’s good to be out here to support the kids, just showing that we support them and we’re here for them,” linebacker Jaylen Moody said.

“Whether it’s skills I’ve learned on the field or just daily life lessons, I’m just happy to be able to give back.”

Tight end Cameron Latu made an appearance, motivating the kids during scrimmages, and even catching a few passes.

“I remember looking up to college players when I was younger, just like the kids are looking up to me now,” Latu said.

“It was great giving back and working with the kids one-on-one. Someone passed down the knowledge to me, and I’m just trying to do the same for the kids today.”

Alabama football players Emil Ekiyor, Jr. and Byron Young also made appearances, and All-American linebacker Will Anderson Jr. is slated to help coach as well.

The three-day camp took place at Hillcrest High School, put together by Jacob Byrd, owner and camp organizer of NextGen Camps. It started on Monday, June 13, and will conclude on Wednesday, June 15.

The camp will host 12 other football camps over the summer with other Power 5 schools, including Louisiana State University, the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University among others.

Byrd originally got in touch with Latu in January to set up the camp that would feature Alabama football players.

Also, as with each location, Byrd looks for the top high school program in the area. This search led him to coach Jaime Mitchell and the Hillcrest Patriots.

“In doing some research, I found coach Mitchell and his storied career along with the program,” Byrd said.

“So I reached out to him in talking about running a summer camp. I was really excited about this opportunity to work with him and his staff.”

Campers had the opportunity to be coached by Hillcrest staff and players in addition to the Alabama football players. Most kids and parents were from the Tuscaloosa area, but some traveled quite a distance for the camp, including Ben Guidugli, a former Cincinnati and NFL football player who drove from Cleveland, Ohio to Tuscaloosa.

“I just wanted to expose my kids to the South where football is a big deal,” he said.

“Get them down here around some different kids, let them see what the talent was like in a different part of the country.”

Guidugli also enjoyed how the Alabama players came out and coached the campers, sharing how his sons were excited about seeing them as well.

“To have those guys they can see on TV come and talk to them about working hard and what it takes to get to that next level, I think it’s a blessing for the kids to get that kind of coaching.”

According to Byrd, it’s that same mentality that is the idea behind NextGen camps, to connect college football stars with the youth to inspire the next generations.

Byrd’s goal is that college players will teach the youth skills they use in football, but also in life.

“This is the first football (camp) in Tuscaloosa that features Alabama players, so it’s a really special opportunity for the community to have these college stars pour into the kids and back into the community,” Byrd said.

“We’re excited to see the results that come from this and the impact that’s made on the youth.”

Byrd hopes to bring the camp back next year, with the goal of having at least 75 or more campers next time.

For more information on this and other camps across the country, visit ussportscamps.com.

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