Pike County natives and pro football players Vernon Butler and Charvarius Ward weren’t going to let the threat of Hurricane Barry stop them from giving back to their communities.
The NFL athletes both held their first-ever respective football camps Saturday morning.
Butler’s was at the Southwest Mississippi Community College basketball gym while Ward’s was held at the McComb High School gym.
Butler admits that even though weather moved his event indoors and he couldn’t do the drills he planned, he still wanted to hold the event.
“I’m happy to see them (kids) come out,” he said. “We are having fun.”
He admits that when he was young, he enjoyed attending football camps as well. He recalls a camp he attended hosted by a popular figure for the New Orleans Saints.
“The first camp that I came to was (hosted by) Michael Lewis, the Beer Man. He came to Southwest Mississippi Community College. So I said that I want to do a camp.”
Butler adds that even though this was his first camp, he is not planning on it being his last.
“It will be the first of many, down the road I hope to have many more,” he said.
Attendees — who got a camp T-shirt — got the opportunity to take a photo with Butler. The fourth-year pro with the Carolina Panthers also got to speak to the kids before allowing them to run sprints.
“I just love the support from all the kids and the community that came out,” Butler said.
When speaking to the kids, the former North Pike Jaguar took the opportunity to preach to them the importance of academics.
“Education comes first before football,” Butler said. “You have to work hard and not let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.”
At McComb High, former Tiger and current Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Charvarius Ward also held his first football camp Saturday morning.
Ward, with the help of several volunteers set up different drills for the dozens of kids in attendance to participate in. Like Butler, Ward was forced to move his camp indoors due to the threat of rain.
“It was a good turnout. The rain kind of dampened things a bit at the beginning but as we came in the gym there was a lot of excitement and it was a lot of fun for the kids,” Ward said. “I enjoyed it, they enjoyed it and we had a lot of fun.”
For Ward, he took a lot of pride in giving back to his community.
“It was exciting for me, I love my hometown, I love McComb, Mississippi. Even though I don’t live here anymore, my parents still live here. I want to see these kids do great and just make something of themselves.
“I just want to tell them that they can do whatever they want to do as long as they stay in school, go hard and try to make your parents proud.”
Growing up, Ward admits that he never got to attend camps so he wanted to give the kids what he didn’t have.
“I never attended football camps my whole life, that is why I wanted to give them this experience,” he said. “I want to give them something that I never experienced. It was tough for me so I just want to make it easier for them as they come up.”
During the camp, the kids ran through a series of drills such as the cone drill, the ladder drill and the bag drill. Each kid in attendance also got T-shirts and a few of the top performers got memorabilia signed by Ward after the camp.
And like Butler, Ward said that he hopes to have more camps in the future.
“It was a great experience. I am going to do it every year as much as possible,” he said. “I want to give back as much as possible and give these kids a good time. They are out here enjoying themselves.”