Former campers happy to lend a hand

Published 10:51 am Saturday, June 2, 2018


Daily News

It was a part of his summer routine.

Growing up in Troup County, Joe Cameron never missed the West Georgia Superstar Football Camp, which has been a fixture in LaGrange for 25 years.

“I grew up going to this camp from when I was knee-high,” Cameron said.

Cameron went on to become a multi-sport standout at Callaway High, and he graduated in 2006.

Cameron never forgot about the youth camp that meant so much to him, and as soon as he was old enough, he went from being a camper to an instructor.

On Friday evening, Cameron was at Callaway Stadium for the opening day of this year’s West Georgia Superstar Football Camp.

The rain put a damper on the festivities, with the dozens of boys and girls unable to get on the field, but the show went on.

The campers were treated to a meal, and they also got to hear some words of advice from Cameron and the other instructors, many of whom played football in college and the NFL.

Among the instructors were some men who went to the camp when they were younger, including Cameron.

Also helping out was former LaGrange standout Travis Hart, current Callaway offensive lineman Keiondre Jones, and Troup graduate Hoston Fannings, who now plays soccer at Augusta University.

Cameron would love to see the current campers get as much out of the event as he did.

“I’ve been a part of this camp for a lot of years. I came to this camp when I was young,” said Cameron, who returned to Callaway for the 2017-2018 school year as a football and baseball coach. “Take something from the camp, whether it be a drill, or something somebody said. Use it and develop, and grow from it.”

Hart, who was a part of three state-championship teams at LaGrange, was a participant in the camp when it was held at Granger Park.

Like Cameron, he’s been glad to be able to return to the camp as an instructor.

“I like to give back,” Hart said. “Dealing with kids, and to be able to do the thing that I love to do which is football, it just makes it that much easier.”

Jones, a senior who is one of the state’s most heavily-recruited offensive linemen, is also happy to lend a hand as an instructor after attending the camp when he was younger.

“I like teaching them,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of stuff I learned over the years, little things that I picked up on.”

Fannings played football and soccer at Troup, and he said “I was in this camp growing up for years and years.”

While sports were important to Fannings growing up, he also excelled as a student, and he stressed to the campers the importance of not neglecting academics.

“You guys, the education part is important,” Fanning said. “Everybody tells you that, but it really is. That education part is important for whatever you want to do.”

The camp was created by Ruben Hairston, a LaGrange native who played in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Hairston has always encouraged camp alumni to return as instructors.

“What makes me feel good is when they come back and help,” Hairston said. “That’s what we want to instill in these kids is to come and give back. That’s the key to everything.”

Hairston’s hope, as has been the case from that first camp a quarter of a century ago, is that the boys and girls participating will learn some valuable life lessons.

“We all want to make a difference in our community,” Hairston said. “That’s what it’s all about. Let’s come together and try to make a difference in our community.”

Hairston added that “it’s very important that you give back. That’s where you get your blessings from.”

Hairston also stressed to the campers the importance of making the right decisions.

“Everybody has an opportunity, but it’s going to be left up to you,” Hairston said. “The choices you make today are going to affect you for the rest of your life.”

The camp concludes today, and if the weather cooperates, the campers will be able to get on the field and learn from the star-studded group of instructors.

There is no charge, and boys and girls ages 8 to 18 are invited to participate today.

Registration will take place at the stadium before the camp kicks off at 9 a.m.