Wednesday, July 6, 2011

NFL punter provides free prep football camp during lockout

Professional athletes host summer camps all over the country. It's an easy way to generate additional income and also build a stronger bond to a player's home community. Both of those factors have never been more important than now, with the NFL lockout leaving a handful of players desperate to find new sources of income.

Yet one player in particular is bucking that trend, instead eschewing payment for his summer camp, which he and sponsors are paying to put on themselves. Perhaps fittingly, the player himself is one of football's traditional outsiders: Jets punter Steve Weatherford.

The 2011 Steve Weatherford Vigo County School All-Star Football Camp will take place on Saturday, July 16 at Terra Haute (Ind.) North High School, where Weatherford was once a football all-star himself. The one-day camp, which is aimed at attracting high school players from the area, allegedly focuses on fundamentals for succeeding in a variety of different positions as well as weight training, conditioning and general life skills.

"I think one cool thing about my camp is we're able to convey the importance of the SATs, the importance of GPAs and, obviously, athletically the importance of the weight room," Weatherford told in an interview about his forthcoming camp. "It's special for me to get some one-on-one time with a lot of those kids.

"Realistically, a lot of those kids won't play college sports, but it's great to teach these kids life skills and how to be a role model in the Terre Haute community.

Weatherford isn't the only NFL player at the camp, with Saints running back Pierre Thomas, Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich, Colts punter Pat McAfee, Chargers defensive end Antonio Garay and former Jets quarterback Eric Ainge also slated to attend. And like nearly all summer camps, the Weatherford All-Star Camp provides a free T-shirt and free lunch for all attendees.

Given both the state of the general economy and the ongoing NFL lockout, Weatherford's free camp feels like an even more gregarious gesture in 2011 than it might in other years.

Not only is Weatherford forgoing proceeds from a camp which is branded with his own name, he's doing so at a time when he isn't receiving other professional income, all the while knowing that families might not be able to afford shelling out a fee associated with it in other times. That's worth noticing for a football camp, regardless of the position Weatherford has played en route to achieving his relative fame.

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