Hundreds turnout for B.A.K.E.R.S. Camp 2009

FALKNER – A heat index of 105 degrees wasn’t enough to keep well over 200 youngsters away from a workout with two NFL stars. Saturday, the 2009 B.A.K.E.R.S. Camp was held on the football and baseball fields at Falkner High School. NFL offensive lineman and Ripley native Kendall Simmons joined Oakland Raider and former Ole Miss standout Derrick Burgess for the fourth consecutive year to give youth ages 6-18 a taste of a NFL style workout. Camp numbers were down compared to previous years, but Simmons, who recently won his second Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he was pleased with the attendance and added that small numbers have their advantages. “I think it was a good turnout,” said Simmons. “We didn’t have as many kids as we had last year, but the thing about that is if you scale it down you get to do more work and a few more reps.” The oldest age groups (13-18) rotated between six different stations working through drills designed to improve skills such as speed and agility as well as proper footwork and how to receive a handoff. The youngest campers (6-12) participated in more basic drills on the baseball field including proper stance and catching the football before rounding out the day performing more advanced drills with Simmons and Burgess. “I think the heat caught up with a lot of them because I know it did me, but it was a good deal overall,” said Simmons. The heat did play a factor at the event, forcing a handful of campers to cease from activities, but camp officials kept plenty of water on the field and the nearly four-hour day was filled with mandatory water breaks. Burgess agreed that the heat was tough, but said the campers worked through it to make it a success. “It was another good camp,” said Burgess. “We had people to come out and have fun. The heat seemed to be a little bit much for them, but they worked through it and it’s just good to see the community doing something for the young people. Anything like that is always good.” Making the young people happy is the goal of the camp and that’s always been the main focus of the camp according to co-founders, brothers Taj and Brandon Colom, who served as camp directors throughout the day. Afterwards they thanked the NFL pros for their participation and the contribution the sponsors and many volunteers made in making the day happen. “We just appreciate Derrick and Kendall for coming out to be with us for another year,” said Taj Colom. “It’s a blessing to have two NFL stars come be with us, and we appreciate them taking time out of their busy schedule to come be with the kids. “The camp is about the kids, and it will always be about the kids. We put God first in what we do and we give Him all the praise for it.” Said Brandon Colom: “It was a wonderful turnout and we appreciate Coach Nance and Falkner High School for use of their facilities and Coach Moore from Walnut who helped us design the shirts again this year. “We appreciate Tippah County and the support they always give us. We would also like to thank all of our sponsors and especially the kids.” Sponsors of the camp included Lindsey, Davis, and Associates, Farrow-Ward Ford, Colom Construction, Echelon Corporation, McDonald’s, Akins & Adams, ILM, Value Inn, A Peace of Mind Insurance Agency, Treesap Medical Center, Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage, Hollis Pharmacy, Griffin Dental, Hill Brothers Construction, People’s Bank, Little Angel’s Daycare, N.L. Jones & Son Funeral Home, and the Tippah County Youth Football And Cheerleading League. After the on-field activities, the campers were treated to an autograph session with Simmons and Burgess. Simmons autographed a limited edition poster-style self-portrait for each camper. Simmons worked with Pittsburgh based Utrecht Art Supplies to produce the 18″ x 27″ print, commissioned by Artist Ben Gersch, to raise money for Juvenile Diabetes Research International. Said Simmons: “This camp was designed to give the youth something that I didn’t get and the generations before me didn’t get–to have someone come back and show some interest in their development. “I enjoy working with them, and this is a way to let them know we actually care,” concluded Simmons.

Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel