For years, kids in the Tampa Bay area enjoyed a wonderful opportunity to meet the A-Train and learn a little bit about football at the annual Mike Alstott Football Camp.
Alstott, the exceedingly popular Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback from 1996-2008, was part of a widespread fraternity during that time, as many NFL coaches and players use a portion of their offseason down time to conduct instructional camps for local boys and girls. Current Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is another example; he recently wrapped up his annual camp with 300 youth participants and 30 Bay area high school coaches.
The NFL is eager to support those in its ranks who want to reach out to the community in this way. This past week, the league announced that it has awarded $600,000 in grants through its Youth Football Fund (YFF) to 214 current and former players and coaches to help them conduct free youth football camps. Several current Buccaneers are on the list of those receiving grants and will be part of an effort that reaches more than 55,000 young players this summer.
Safety Larry Asante, punter Michael Koenen and Defensive Line Coach Randy Melvin all received awards for camps that took place shortly after the Buccaneers' final mini-camp in June. Asante's was held in Dacula, Georgia and Koenen's in Ferndale, Washington while Melvin conducted his in Tampa. In addition, Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph was one of 36 current and former NFL players who took advantage of the opportunity to partner with USA Football to hold a "FUNdamentals" camp.
The FUNdamentals program is designed to provide player and coach camp hosts with turn-key and ready-to-execute, non-contact youth football camps in their communities. All skills and drills are selected based on USA Football's Player Progression Development Model, ensuring that participants learn age-appropriate football fundamentals in an enjoyable and safe environment. USA Football provides (among other benefits) FUNdamentals curriculum and an event operations guide, coaches manual, a registration website, camp insurance, camper t-shirts and access to on-site certified athletic trainers. The USA Football FUNdamentals program is an official program of NFL PLAY 60 – the NFL's campaign to encourage kids to be active for 60 minutes a day in order to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity. Joseph will conduct his FUNdamentals camp in his hometown of Hallandale, Florida in July.
A number of former Buccaneers coaches and players received grants for their own camps or opted into the FUNdamentals program this year, including Joe Baker, Santana Dotson, Jason Garrett, Kareem Huggins, Josh Johnson, James Lee, John McCargo, Mike McGruder, Ray Perkins and Mike Tomlin.
Tomlin and Joseph are just a few of the high-profile players and coaches, both currently active and retired, who are reach young people with the help of the NFL Youth Football Fund. Others include Isaac Bruce, Eric Dickerson, Matt Forte, Charles Haley, Rodney Harrison, Torry Holt, Greg Jennings, Ray Lewis, Christian Okoye, Matt Ryan and Jason Witten.
The NFL Youth Football Fund has awarded more than $4.3 million in player and coach camp grants since 1998. The YFF uses football as a catalyst to promote positive youth development, support youth and high school football needs nationwide and ensure the health of amateur football participation.