More than 750 area high school football players from 16 schools were at Wallace-Rose Hill High School Friday for the Jeremiah Castille Character Camp.
The third annual event was hosted by the House of Raeford Farm foundation FLOCK, which provides tools and resources to mission-driven organizations focusing on youth development, hunger relief, and addiction recovery.
Castille, who played college football at Alabama and is the team's chaplain, delivered a simple message.
“I want to look them in the eye, and I am going to say it the way that Paul W. Bryant said it when he coached me at the University of Alabama: ‘Men you are special,’” said Castille. “We want to make sure that next generation knows they are special as human beings, as people.”
That message was echoed by current and former college and professional players from Alabama, Clemson and the New York Giants.
“You can’t get anywhere without hard work,” said Clemson senior defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. “You just have to put your all into it, and that talent will get you to the top, but your character and the person who you are and how you act will keep you at the top.”
“When I was going through the recruiting process in the same spot at these guys here, it was my character that got me that the extra stuff past my athletic ability,” said Josh Banks of the New York Giants.
Campers also had the opportunity to ask the college and pro players questions they might not have otherwise been able to get answered.
“One kid said he had a bunch of questions but didn’t want to ask,” said Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant. “I said, ‘This is what we are here for.’”
“They may not see an NFL guy in their life,” New York Giant Kareem Martin said. “It might just motivate the next guy to get where we are at.”
For House of Raeford Farms President and CEO Bob Johnson, it’s an invaluable message.
“It’s priceless,” said Johnson. “I pray that it’s something that will stick in these guys’ minds and go to their hearts and they have an understanding of what life is about.”
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