Just shy of 200 area youth enjoyed a mild, breezy summer morning Saturday, May 18, 2019, at Independence Stadium at the fourth annual free Caddo DA Youth Football Camp.
The budding young athletes, ages 6 to 17, spent three hours tossing and catching footballs, running obstacles, practicing tackling and learning the value of teamwork and exertion.
“It starts the summer off right,” Caddo Parish District Attorney James E. Stewart said. “Hopefully we can keep them motivated to do the right thing. I hope they’ll use this opportunity to focus on the right things in life. I hope they’ll see these players as examples of things they can do. Many of these athletes were just like these kids, running around in these camps and having a good time.”
The youths were under the watchful eye of more than a dozen top area coaches and athletic staffers. These included almost all the sports staff at Huntington High School, as well as visiting coaches from nearby parishes.
“We try to spend time with these kids and try to be a positive influence with them,” said Stephen Dennis, head coach at Huntington. He thanked D.A. Stewart and the Caddo Parish Schools Athletic Staff for “giving us at Huntington the opportunity to come out and help with this camp. This is something we’re to be a part of going forward. We’re going to try to grow this and reach as many kids as we can with the positivity of athletics.”
Added to this mix was some college and professional football star power with local roots. These included former Evangel, LSU and Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh Booty; former Evangel, University of Arkansas and San Francisco ’49ers cornerback Ramon Broadway; former West Monroe, Oklahoma State and current New York Giants cornerback Michael Hunter; and former Calvary, University of Houston and current Cincinnati Bengals safety Brandon Wilson.
The day ended at noon with free lunch for all the participants. They also received camp T-shirts and had a chance to get autographs from the visiting pro players.
Brandon Wilson said his young charges should “be patient, work hard, be consistent and don’t give up. Don’t ever give up on your dream. We’ve got some great athletes, talent in Shreveport. It’s always good to give back to the community, to give these kids hope, let them know they can reach their dreams and aspirations.”
“I still feel like a kid myself,” Michael Hunter said. “Maybe 10 years ago I was a kid coming to these camps, excited and wanting to meet a Bradie James or an Andrew Whitworth. It’s amazing how it’s come full circle. It’s a blessing to come back and be a role model and show them the sky’s the limit. There’s kids here 15 years old, just as strong as me.”
A major presence at the event was Josh Booty, who spent a lot of time with quarterback hopefuls. At the close of the event he told the young athletes to make football their passion and to make it a focus of their lives, and to always be ready to be surprised,.
“Even Tom Brady’s still learning, and he’s won six Super Bowls,” Booty said.
Repeat camp participant Ramon Broadway also had some parting words for the hopefuls.
“It’s really a treat for me to come back and give back to you,” he told the assembled boys and girls. “When I was in you guys’ place, Judge Stewart gave me two options: ‘You can go to jail or you can play football.’ What are you going to do?”
“Football!” the camp shouted.
They also had to make choices, Broadway said.
“I watched what all my friends were doing and did the opposite,” he said. “Don’t be a follower, guys. You’re never too young to be a leader.”
And he echoed Booty when he urged them to stay the course and make the best grades they can.
“School first,” he said. “Make sure you do all your lessons.”
All of the following photos were taken by John Andrew Prime for the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office.