Worcester, MASS. - Thirteen former Patriots players, including former defensive back Roland James --still the third-leading interceptor in team history-- gathered at Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium on Saturday, May 29 to share years of football experience with 60 local kids. The day-long camp, dubbed "Football For You," was delivered free of charge thanks to the New England Patriots Alumni Club (NEPAC) and The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation with help from their sponsors, The Hanover Insurance Group and Papa Gino's.
"This is just a great chance for former Patriots to get out on the field and teach kids some fundamentals," said James, who oversaw the seven stations at the camp, each of which introduced a different skill, such as running passing routes and proper football stances.
The other former pros in attendance included players from each of the five decades of Patriots history, and although many of them never played together, all of the NEPAC members in attendance agreed on one thing: NEPAC is about giving back to the communities that have embraced Patriots football since it began.
"We're bringing our 'Football For You' youth camps to three other locations over the next few weeks," said NEPAC President and former Patriots center Pete Brock. "Up next is Boston, which will be the fifth 'Football For You' in a row there, but we'll also be in Springfield and Providence this year for the first time. The goodwill impact is tremendous whenever we do this, and it's nice to see the area parents get their kids involved. We certainly couldn't do this without them, as well as The Hanover and Papa Gino's."
The sun was shining but the heat was not oppressive - the perfect day to learn some football fundamentals. Despite the holiday weekend, dozens of parents crowded the stands to watch their kids learn from the pros.
The camp kicked off with motivational speeches by Brock and Jeff Lane, the assistant athletic director of Worcester Public Schools. As if the experience on the field wasn't enough, coaches representing all five of the Worcester Public High School football teams were in attendance, sharing pointers and scouting talent.
After each of the 11-14 year old boys and girls at the camp grabbed a free T-shirt, they spent the next four hours running around, taking handoffs and doing drills. Participants even had the chance to take part in an official NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition to see who could do the most with the ball. A few young stars had impressive skills but still more seemed to be just discovering the joys of football.
"It's great to see their eyes light up when they finally throw a spiral or deflect a pass on defense," said former Patriots cornerback Ronnie Lippett, who coached the defensive backs drill. "Some of these kids might not have had a chance to try football this summer and that's what keeps the alums coming back year after year."
At the end of the day the clouds crept in and cooled things down. Each camper went home with a belly full of warm Papa Gino's pizza and a bag of goodies donated by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.
NEPAC's 'Football For You' one-day clinics are scheduled to land in Boston on June 12 at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and Community Center in Roxbury, and will arrive in Springfield, Mass., and Providence, R.I., on June 25 and July 10, respectively.
The New England Patriots Alumni Club provides an opportunity for former New England Patriots players to remain actively involved with one another, the Patriots organization and the community. The organization's mission is to support and fund youth and high school sports programs throughout New England with an emphasis on football.
The purpose of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation is to support programs that aid the youth and families of the New England region by assisting programs that foster cultural diversity, education, family and health and fitness.