Once the skies cleared, it was a picture-perfect day for a football camp.
The start of the West Georgia Superstar & Walt’s World Football Camp on Thursday was delayed when a heavy rain storm came down shortly after 5 p.m., and it looked like the camp would have to be moved indoors.
But the sun soon came out, and the camp went on as scheduled at Callaway Stadium.
Ruben Hairston, whose Superstar camp joined forces with Walt’s World Inc. this year to put on one camp, was happy with the Day 1 turnout despite the ominous weather, but he still wants more.
“We had buses go to several stops to pick up kids,” Hairston said. “I thought that would bring some more out here, but there was still a good number of kids here.”
Hairston said the event, which is in its 16th year, usually draws more people on the second day, so the numbers should increase today when it runs from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The third and final day of the camp is Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon.
A flag football game featuring a number of NFL players is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.
There’s no reason for children to stay at home, according to Hairston.
The camp is free for all children ages 8 to 18, and participants will receive instruction from present and former NFL stars.
Campers can sign up at Callaway Stadium.
Among the NFL players Thursday were San Francisco linebacker Takeo Spikes, Washington Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels and Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Dave Macklin.
LaGrange’s Walt Harris, a defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers, was also there and instructing, despite a knee injury that will require surgery and could keep him out for the 2009 season.
Even more NFL players will make an appearance today.
“I feel good about the people we have out here helping,” Hairston said. “Especially the young guys who are still playing (in the NFL). Some of the older guys, these kids weren’t even born when they were playing. It’s important that the guys who are playing right now are here, because they can make a difference in a life.”
Some of the past NFL players included Brent Fullwood, Jeff Hewitt and Gerald Robinson, among many others.
Callaway High’s Quay Boddie, who graduated last weekend, is also helping out at the camp, as is LaGrange College graduate Cedric Talley, who helped lead the Panthers to an NCAA Division III playoff berth last season.
Harris, founder of Walt’s World and a current defensive back for the 49ers, joined forces with the Superstar camp in hopes of creating a huge camp that would draw children from all over.
Harris is happy with the way it’s gone so far.
“We had some bad weather, but we adjusted and we got a lot done,” Harris said. “The rain caused not as many kids to come out, but (today) we’ll have more.”
Harris said the event is “flowing well” and everyone is on the same page.
“Everyone understands what we’re trying to accomplish,” Harris said. “We’re hoping to take it to a better level than it has been.”
Daniels, who was a fourth-round draft pick out of Georgia in 1996, has played for three NFL teams and has helped at Harris’ previous camps.
In addition to teaching fundamentals to children, he wants to make sure participants know the importance of education at the camp.
“It’s good because we go outside the game and talk about other things too,” said Daniels, who has 59 career sacks with the Seahawks, Bears and Redskins. “We hope to instill in them that they can’t go anywhere without an education.”
For former Auburn linebacker Smokey Hodge also knows the purpose of getting the kids to listen.
Hodge has helped Hairston with the camp for the past eight years, and has seen what it can do for aspiring football players.
“For me, it’s about the fact that a lot of these kids couldn’t afford to go to football camp,” Hodge said. “It’s our way of giving back to the community.”