The football field at Westfield High School hosts plenty of athletes looking to shape up over the summer, but last weekend it saw a particularly special player walk through its gates. Eddie Royal, whose dominance on Westfield’s gridiron paved the way for eventual NFL stardom, returned to his old stomping grounds on Saturday to host the Eddie Royal Football Camp, a free clinic geared toward improving the basic skill sets of kids ages 7-18.
The one-day clinic was supported by a grant from the NFL Foundation and sponsored by USA Football, the official youth football development partner of the NFL. It was designed to introduce children to football by teaching basic passing, catching and running skills in a non-contact setting based on USA Football’s Player Progression Development Model, which ensures the kids learn in an age-appropriate manner based on cognitive and physical maturity.
Royal, who grew up in the Reston and Herndon area, said he was motivated to host the camp by the fact that his family couldn’t afford to send him to expensive football camps when he was a kid. The opportunity to come home and offer a clinic to kids who might be in a similar situation was too good to pass up.
“Hopefully it means that much more because I remember guys from the area that I always heard about but never got to see too much up close and personal,” said Royal, who signed a contract as a wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers last spring after four seasons playing for the Denver Broncos. “Hopefully they’ve heard about me before the camp, and it’s good that they can meet me because I love meeting the kids. It means a lot to me to be able to do it at home, not just in the city that I’m playing in. I was in the same situation as them in the same area, so hopefully they can relate to that, and that will push them and motivate them to do better.”
Close to 100 kids showed up to Saturday’s camp, the second such clinic hosted by Royal after he introduced one at Westfield in 2011. This is the second year that USA Football has sponsored FUNdamentals clinics. After putting on 36 such clinics last year, USA Football is helping conduct 75 clinics this year, 68 of which are hosted by current or former NFL players.
“It’s especially exciting to see so many current and former players want to get involved,” said Steve Alic, Director of Communications at USA Football. “This is a fun, dynamic way to learn football, and these kids are learning it the right way from former players who are certainly knowledgable about the sport but who also care about these kids and are doing it right by teaching them the fundamentals in an age-appropriate way.”
In addition to drills ingraining fundamentals and a concluding flag football game, Royal and his fellow counselors decided to mix it up this year by putting campers through a simulation of the NFL scouting combine. Royal showed kids how to do the drills that helped him get selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, setting up stations that included a 30-yard dash, short shuttle, broad jump and the three-cone drill. Participants were timed and can visit a link on Royal’s Facebook page to see how they stacked up against each other.
A few of Royal’s former high school teammates joined him as counselors on Saturday. Among them was Louis Corum, a fellow senior alongside Royal when Westfield went undefeated to win the state championship in 2004. Corum joined other counselors in sitting the kids down to emphasize the importance of pursuing a good education and staying focused on all aspects of life.
“We just wanted to inspire these kids and let them know that if you have a dream, dream big and you can make it,” said Corum, who went on to play football at Shepherd University. “A lot of these camps cost a lot of money, so for Eddie to come out here, it’s big. I appreciate him doing that because if I had as much influence as he has, I would want to do the same thing - free camps and stuff like that. I’m really grateful for him doing that.”
Rather than make it a one-time deal, Royal expressed his desire to turn the camp into an annual event.
“I don’t know too many people that do camps around here, so it was important for me to be able to come out here for the kids in Northern Virginia,” Royal said. “Hopefully we can make this an annual thing and make it bigger and better each year.”