New Orleans Saints Linebacker Martez Wilson held his 2nd Annual “You Are The Future” Youth Football Camp in Chicago June 21st and 22nd, 2013
Wilson, a 2007 graduate of Chicago’s Simeon High School and University of Illinois graduate, has produced this camp comprised of children ages 7-17 along with his PR company, 4th & Long, for two years in a row, in Calumet Park.
Having grown up on Chicago’s South Side, Martez Wilson is no stranger to the epidemic of violence that plagues many Chicago neighborhoods (in just the first four months of 2013, Chicago dealt with 92 homicides). As told to us by Pilar Ellis, co-founder of 4th & Long, Martez Wilson has referred to the violence as a disease. “Violence is a contagious disease, and to prevent it from spreading, we need to combat it with an alternative. This is what I hope to achieve with my camp and foundation”, says Wilson. He adds, “the goal of my foundation is to directly engage the youth of Chicago and hopefully one day, America, where they can positively impact the life of another child and ultimately realize their potential to effect change both in their own community and around the country, whether through sports or in what they do as adults. After all, our children are the future”.
So often, I feel that news of “the bad boys of the NFL” get so much more coverage, be it that it’s more salacious news, or our innate love of gossip, so it is so refreshing to see so many players this involved in molding youth’s futures.
In an incredible show of support, 13 of Wilson’s teammates and NFL friends (most of whom also grew up in Chicagoland) flew in to join the camp, immediately taking to the field upon their arrival to meet the campers and start showing them stretching exercises and leading them in drills that they themselves do.
Friends for life, despite often competing against each other, Martez had 9 of his former University of Illinois teammates at the camp. This group included Mikel Leshoure Sr. (Detroit Lions), Glenn Foster (New Orleans Saints), Josh Brent (Dallas Cowboys), and Terry Hawthorne (Pittsburgh Steelers). Wilson’s New Orleans based trainer, Sonic Boom’s founder Wyatt Harris, headed up coaching the camp. Not only was it impressive that he took the time to fly in, but what I found to be most impressive was the way in which he interacted with the campers. He treated them and spoke to them as if they were any of his usual NFL trainees, not condescendingly in any way, but as if they were already pros themselves.
“We have assembled another all-star cast to teach our young campers about the great game of football,” Wilson says. “The skills we teach have been used by Pro Bowlers, Super Bowl champions and Hall of Famers.” Among the pros on-site for camp were: Terriun Crump, WR for the Tampa Bay Bucs, Dallas Cowboys’ Josh Brent, Mikel Leshoure Sr, RB for the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars’ DE JD Griggs, Pittsburgh Steelers CB Terry Hawthorne and New Orleans Saints players Corey White, Travaris Cadet and Cameron Jordan.
Not even the rain could dampen the campers’ spirits, as they were eager to meet their idols. One of the parents told me that her sons hadn’t slept for two nights prior to the camp, in sheer excitement. I wondered who benefited more – the pros that had the opportunity to directly give back to their own local community, or the children, who had the opportunity to toss the football and learn from those they are growing up watching on tv?
“This is a great opportunity for us to share skills with the kids that not only will help them on the field, but also how to make it in life,” Glenn Foster remarked. Travaris Cadet agreed, adding “this is such a crucial moment in these kids’ lives – high school is where decision making becomes the most crucial, the decisions you make now set you up for the rest of your life.”
Pilar Ellis and Wilson made a point to only invite players that not only had the humility and urge to give back to the campers, but also ensured the pros were all college graduates. “It was important that we show the campers “Look – this is where these guys came from too. Now see what they were able to overcome and achieve. You can always achieve your dreams,” shared Ellis.