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Michael Irvin’s football camp makes its way to Denton

Michael Irvin’s football camp makes its way to Denton

At the awards ceremony for the Playmaker's Academy football camp, Former Cowboys Wide Receiver Micheal Irvin claps for the youth being awarded. Over 200 kids joined the camp this year, featuring specialized instruction on how to be confident, well-rounded players. PC: Katie Jenkins

Michael Irvin’s football camp makes its way to Denton
July 21
12:37 2017

Kneeling in a semicircle on the 50-yard line of a practice field outside of Apogee Stadium, 200 young players at the Michael Irvin Playmakers Football Academy barely seemed to notice the July heat even as the perspiration poured down their faces.

Most were still wearing their jerseys, cleats and protective gear as they stared silently up at the muscular man standing tall in the middle of the huddle. The sea of faces went blank with a collective expression of stunned amazement as the man began to speak.

“The only way we can make America great again is right here,” the man said in a deep and powerful voice. “It starts with you!”

An older player in the back let out a cheer and was quickly joined in a chorus of whistles and applause from the rest of squad. This was the moment they had been waiting for. This was the man they had come to see —  three time Super Bowl champion, NFL Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboy, Michael Irvin.

Irvin was tall, impeccably groomed and dressed in black shorts and a skin-tight white T-shirt. Even now, 18 years after his last game, he appeared to be in peak physical condition.

“You’ll know him when you see him,” a camp counselor said earlier in the day. “He’s hard to miss.”

By now a crowd of the player’s families had converged on the huddle, cameras out, fresh footballs and magic markers at the ready, all hoping to get an autograph and a picture with the Dallas legend.

The excitement was palpable.

“This for me is the essence of the whole game,” Irvin said. “Right here, right now. This is the best part. It revives me. This game was built for the kid in all of us. I love doing this — these kids are incredible.”

The Michael Irvin Playmakers Academy, a part of Sports International’s series of nationwide football camps, was held from July 15 to 18 at Apogee Stadium.

Since UNT and the Dallas Cowboys have a close partnership, the camp provides a unique opportunity for many young football players from all over the country to come practice at a college stadium while learning from NFL greats.

“The headliners over the years have changed,” said John Cupit, camp director and former LSU football player. “We had Jay Novacek for several years. We had Barry Church and Anthony Spencer. So we’ve had some prominent Cowboys leading these camps.”

The camp, open to players ages 7 to 18, is a limited contact camp, and “a perfect median between non-contact and full contact,” according to the website. It’s a place where young players have the opportunity to be instructed in football strategy for all positions from professional players and coaches with extensive backgrounds in the sport.

During 14-18 age group’s final game at the Playmaker’s Academy football camp, a camper takes off with the ball around the edge of the field. The academy has been working with youth football players for 35 years, helping kids learn the game from professionals and staff. Katie Jenkins

The camp coaches even select standout high school age players and work to promote these potential future NFL stars to over 2,500 college coaches all around the country to help.

Their goal is to help these players gain recognition at the college level.

We want to focus on three things — we want to give the kids the necessary fundamentals, help them develop a love for the game and enhance young people’s self-confidence,” Cupit said. “A lot of these younger kids are still trying to figure out where they fit in the world and we try to use our engagement to help them figure that out.”

Tom Foley, Irvin’s business partner, said the main lesson they hope to instill in players is a sense of team.

“We want to promote the idea that it’s not only about one player because no matter where you are, you’re always part of a team,” Foley said. “It might be with your family, it might be in your class, but there is always a team involved in everything we do, so we teach them to think about the team first.”

Irvin couldn’t agree more.

“In this game, there is no such thing as individual, isolated success,” Irvin said. “In every other sport you can do that but in this game. Like in life, it’s all about the team, and this game teaches you that. The kids will walk away with a sense of team and what it takes to overcome adversity.”

Laura Gray, the mother of an 11-year-old player who had traveled from Portland, Oregon to attend the camp, was as excited as her child for him to be able to take part in the academy.

“All these kids want to be pros,” Gray said. “And I know here he is being coached by the very best, they know what they’re doing and my son will go back home knowing he learned a lot and he will apply that, but the most important takeaway is the confidence he’s gained.”

Irvin and Foley said the confidence instilled in these players is not only important for their performance on the field, but off the field as well.

“Each one of us is going to go through things in life this game will prepare you for,” Irvin said. “To have these kids actually see in us what they can accomplish, you don’t know what you can accomplish unless you can see it, and I think that’s important for their future success whether it is in sports or whatever else they decide to do in life.”

Featured Image: At the awards ceremony for the Playmaker’s Academy football camp, Former Cowboys Wide Receiver Micheal Irvin claps for the youth being awarded. Over 200 kids joined the camp this year, featuring specialized instruction on how to be confident, well-rounded players. Katie Jenkins

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David Urbanik

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