The Rockford Park District's annual youth football camp offers young players a unique opportunity to sharpen their skills, and learn from experienced teachers. This year was no exception - from a Pro Bowl special guest, to local natives coming home to teach the next generation.
Saturday at Sportscore Two, Rockford's kids laced up and went to football camp, where former Chicago Bears Pro Bowler Tommie Harris puts on his teaching cap.
"To encourage the youth is a reciprocating process. Once you do it, you hope they do the same thing," said Harris.
He's not the only instructor with a familiar face on the field - a trio of NIC-10 grads line up and share their lessons.
"You see a guy that's been through what you been through, to be able to speak on that is really cool," said Hononegah graduate Shaylar Burnell, now at Southwest Minnesota State. "Because they've been through the experience you've been through. You don't necessarily understand it at that age, but you feel better about yourself going through this."
Their presence, as former campers and young players, is valuable.
"To know you came up through this, seeing you're doing well. It's fun being around this kids too. Especially when they know you and what you do, it's all great," said Auburn graduate Vederian Lowe, now at the University of Illinois.
Their personal achievements are a shared success with their community.
"Put Rockford on the map and pave the way for guys like me, Vedarian and Shaylar," said Tennessee State quarterback and Boylan graduate Demry Croft. "Because we have a lot of athletes in this city, a lot of athletes. Colleges are seeing it, and they're going to come, they're going to come."
The guest of honor left with a strong impression of Rockford, and its people.
"What they're doing in this community is wonderful. This facility is ridiculous, I don't think there are other places this unique," said Tommie Harris.
He believes this camp and other opportunities like it are important foundational tools for the city's youth.
"They put their money where their mouth is. You know your kids have a chance and a future when the adults are that conscience about the potential they can do with their money," Harris said of RPD and its programs.
Saturday at Sportscore Two, Rockford's kids laced up and learned from NFL alumni, and natives from their neighborhoods.