Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey held a two-day NFL professional football camp for military children, July 11 through 12, at Hedrick Stadium’s turf field.
Children, grades one through eight, of current service members, retirees and civilian employees maxed the 150 slot capacity for a spot on the football field with McCaffrey during his visit to Fort Bragg.
Command Sgt. Maj. William D. Lohmeyer, Fort Bragg garrison command sergeant major, represented leadership to welcome McCaffrey, ProCamp staff and Families.
“We are excited to have Christian McCaffrey with us,” Loehmeyer said. “The champions of the day are the ones who do the little things and do their best, no excuses.”
McCaffrey, a decorated professional football player, has set numerous NFL and franchise records coming off of a successful 2018 season with the Carolina Panthers. His expertise, alongside that of his coaching staff, provided a window of opportunity for young aspiring athletes to hone in on their football skills.
“It has been an unbelievable experience so far,” McCaffrey said. “As soon as this opportunity to host the football camp came up, I jumped to it. I have a huge heart for the military, and being able to give back, especially to the kids, has been a lot of fun.”
Despite the extreme heat, children darted to and from yard lines, appearing unaffected by the temperatures on the infield. The football camp consisted of various training stations, with the objective to have each child experience every offensive football position at least once.
Training stations taught technique, game intelligence, physical fitness and proper mindset, and included quarterback, running back, tight end and wide receiver stations. The camp began with a team warm-up with agility drills. Then the importance of hydration was stressed. The event culminated with 7-on-7 and 5-on-5 football games, so the children could demonstrate the knowledge they gained.
McCaffrey said the discipline of the military children made it a breeze to coach them. The children had exceptional eye contact, an intrinsic ability to listen and responsiveness to both physical and mental demands of the sport and coaching direction.
Children participating in the event, such as Sadrean De Jesus, 10, made no excuses despite the days oppressive conditions.
“We are here today and we are coming again tomorrow morning. We saw the event posted on the Fort Bragg Facebook page, and we rushed to sign-up,” said Ashly De Jesus, Sadrean’s mother. “My daughter (Sadrean) is so pumped to be here today. It is great what the Carolina Panthers are doing with the military. It is great what the military is doing for the Families.”
McCaffrey met with Lohmeyer and Soldiers from the installation and gifted an autographed Carolina Panthers helmet to the garrison. Other special events included an award presented to Paula Lewis, store director of South Post Commissary for the commissary’s food and drink contributions to the camp.
“The biggest lesson I want the kids to take away from this event is to enjoy the game of football,” McCaffrey said. “This whole camp is about having fun, enjoying competition, helping each other out, getting close, learning about the game, meeting new friends and teammates.”
The Panthers running back recognizes the sacrifices of military Families, and emphasized the significance of giving back to service members and their Families. McCaffrey shared the lessons he learned at a young age from his father: in generosity and kindness. He said the greatest reward is providing military children with a support system and something to experience, recognizing their resilience and appreciating their everyday sacrifice.
“For me, I would not be able to play football without the sacrifice of our service members,” McCaffrey said. “Any chance I have to give back, I jump to it. I feel indebted.”
Following the football camp, McCaffrey met with military Families and fans for an autograph session at the South Post Commissary.