Student-athletes focus on choosing right path at NFL camp

Jun. 13, 2013 @ 09:41 PM

The severe weather that blew through the area Thursday evening didn’t stop the NFL High School Player Development camp at Southern Vance from completing four days of football and character development.

Campers were moved inside Raider Gymnasium for the final hour of Thursday’s session, competing in seven-on-seven drills as well as the Linemen Challenge.

Volunteer coaches from area high schools and middle schools preached qualities such as sportsmanship, leadership and discipline to the 169 campers from Northern and Southern Vance, J.F. Webb Franklinton, and South Granville high schools.

The word at this week’s camp, in its fourth year at Southern, was “choice.”

“We try to let them understand it’s a choice in life,” said Northern head coach Eric Watkins. “A choice to be here, to show up every day. You have so many temptations out there, but when you have a hundred and some kids showing up every day in this heat — that says a lot.”

Site manager Sylvia Raye said the character development sessions cover a variety of issues including bullying, concussions, NCAA regulations, volunteering in the community, and time and stress management.

The camp is sponsored by the National Guard. Staff Sergeant Chris Dethmers was on hand this week representing the N.C. Army National Guard. The 2001 Northern Vance graduate and recruiter for the Tri-County area, said the camp gives coaches a unique opportunity to evaluate their players in the summer.

Watkins added that the camp provides coaches an opportunity to get a look at their own players as well as scout the opposition.

The Vikings will no longer play in the same conference as their chief opposition, Southern, beginning in the fall. The Raiders are dropping to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-A classification while Northern will stay in 3-A.

Southern head coach Lewis Young said there’s plenty of excitement in the area entering a new season.

“I think we’re going to have a tough conference,” said Young. “Both teams are going into conferences that are tough. But I think we have some really good athletes and some really good young players that should be able to develop in the next year or two.”

Southern’s Jaquez Bullock has had a busy summer participating in camps at North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, and East Carolina. Duke is next.

Bullock, a 6-foot-8, 320-pound rising senior, competed in the Lineman Challenge, a new event to the NFL camp this summer. Participants have the chance to advance to a national tournament if their scores are high enough.

Bullock echoed Watkins’ sentiment about the NFL camp serving to bring the community together.

“You have a chance to better not only your team, but the whole county,” said Bullock. “You want to help the whole county. If the whole county does well, then all of Henderson can get on the map.”

Anthony Davis, a rising senior running back/linebacker at Northern, said the players aren’t concerned with rivalries during the camp.

“We don’t really think about it that much,” said Davis. “We just try to have fun.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.