On Saturday, June 9, more than 150 Northshore children from ages 7-18 enjoyed the opportunity to help improve their strength, agility, nutrition and confidence and have fun with several members of the New Orleans Saints in a football camp hosted by the team's Assistant Defensive Line Coach Travis Jones.
Jones, who partnered with Athletic Republic for the event, brought several members of the Saints coaching staff as well as local college and high school coaches to collaborate with the Saints players in the Travis Jones Football Camp at Lakeshore High School in Mandeville.
This was a great opportunity for these students to learn about football skills, go through live drills with Saints players, while also receiving some off-the-field advice and instruction.
In addition to Jones, other Saints coaches who participated were assistant special teams coach Mike Mallory, Offensive Assistant/Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Carter Sheridan and Defensive Assistant/Linebackers Brian Young.
Players who participated in the camp were DL Braylon Broughton, RB Travaris Cadet, QB Sean Canfield, CB A.J. Davis, T Marcel Jones, DT Akiem Hicks, CB Laron Scott, G Andrew Tiller, WR Nick Toon and DL Tyrunn Walker.
Jones, who owns a Super Bowl ring from his Saints tenure and an NCAA National Championship from serving as the defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator at Louisiana State University from 2003-04 conducted this camp for the second consecutive year on the Northshore where he and his family reside, adding to a similar event he has hosted in his hometown of Irwinton, Ga. for the past six years.
"This is something that is a real pleasure for me to be able to host," said Jones. "I love working with kids both younger and older. For the kids in middle and high school, this is a great opportunity for them to be taught the fundamentals and see firsthand in some of these players, what the hard work has resulted in. For some of the younger kids, it's a great way to get them involved, teach them some of the basics of football and allow them to have a fun time."
The energy of the camps participants quickly increased at 9 a.m. when Jones introduced the players individually and laid out his plans for the day. He impressed upon the participants that his expectations for the day would be that the staff and the players alike would all be disciplined, work hard and have fun, three basic tenets that he also brings to his charges on the club's defensive line at the practice facility in Metairie every day.
Following warmups, the middle school and high school players went into breakout groups where they received mental instruction, examples and were run through drills at their position of choice by the players and coaches who specialize in these areas.
The younger children participated in basic football drills for all positions with expert instruction from local high school coaches and the team's youth programs department, administered by director of youth programs Jason Trosclair. While the older troops were taught specialized instruction akin to what the Saints go through during the individual period of an offseason, training camp or regular season practice, the youngsters had fundamentals drilled into them, such as teaching them how to properly take a ball from snap, grip the ball and throw it.
"This was a great opportunity for us to get out of our hotel and interact with some of the kids in the community," said rookie wide receiver Nick Toon. "As a youngster, I remember my opportunities to receive this type of instruction and what I got out of days like this. It's a pleasure to be able to give back and have the opportunity to help them improve themselves both on and off the field."
The students then got off the field for a catered lunch, where they also had the opportunity to receive autographs from all the players on their camp issue t-shirts. In an overcast day, it rained at the perfect time as Jones then sent all of the campers into the gymnasium where for the Saints players' last act of the day, several of them opened it up to questions as well as discussing the importance of education.
Following the break, the campers transitioned back to the field, where for the last hour-and-a-half, seven-on-seven and linemen/linebacker specific work was the highlight of the afternoon.
"Overall, this was a great day for these kids and I really think everybody got something out of it today," said Jones. "Myself and our players got the satisfaction of giving these kids some of the opportunities to better themselves that we received when we were younger, while also getting satisfaction out of seeing improvement. Hopefully they can put some of these lessons to use in the upcoming season."