The cost of Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed’s two-day football camp is a reasonable $90 per player.
However, the approximately 150 middle and high school athletes who attended left not only with new football knowledge but, more importantly, life lessons that only an NFL player could teach.
Reed, along with several other of his Ravens teammates and former high school coaches, schooled the campers on points like defensive footwork, wide receiver stances and offensive line leverage. But the education did not stop there.
The All-Pro safety’s passion for giving back to the community runs much deeper.
“This is our future,” he said amid Thursday’s sun-drenched morning session. “We can come out and give some advice on academics, make sure the kids understand that they need to start early on in their lives. Concentrate on good grades, setting goals, having a good, positive attitude.”
He said his campers keep him grounded, reminding him that it’s all about fun.
“This is the best time of your life as a kid, playing football,” he said. “The [NFL] lockout and money and stuff like that don’t matter to you. You’re just having fun with it and enjoying it. This is what helps me keep that love for it.”
Reed’s camp, which ran Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is in its second year in the Baltimore area and it’s first at Franklin. Last year’s sessions were held at Randallstown High.
In the nine years prior to these camps, Reed held similar camps in his hometown of Destrehan, La. It was there that he linked up with Brad Davis, now Reed’s financial advisor, who helps the 33-year-old safety run the camp.
Many NFL players lend their names to football camps and simply show up and go through the motions, but having been around Reed for almost a decade, Davis witnesses firsthand just how much energy he pours into working with his pupils.
“You can just see it in his face when he’s out here talking to the kids,” Davis said of Reed. “All the camps I’ve been to, you can have a couple dozen athletes out there, some may be on the sidelines, some may be poking in and out. Ed, he practices what he preaches. He’s deep in the trenches, involved with the kids at all times.”
Davis, who could see Reed becoming a coach later in life, referred to an instance from last year’s camp where one teenager started crying and former Raven Troy Smith took the kid aside to talk for over an hour. The camper would return to finish the day strong.
Clearly, the camp’s objective is more than just the X’s and O’s of football.
“We just use football as an instrument to teach kids life’s lessons,” Davis said. “If our way of breaking down the barriers to break into kids minds and let them listen to us is through football, well, then that’s what we’ve chosen to do.”
Reed’s desire to connect with the youngsters is contagious.
Several of his teammates, including Lardarius Webb, Haruki Nakamura and Domonique Foxworth volunteered to be a part of the camp in a completely hands-on fashion, battling it out with campers in 7-on-7 scrimmages and leading the way in technique-teaching drills.
The commitment of those pro athletes is not lost among the campers themselves, who appreciate every minute they get to spend on the field with their beloved Ravens.
“Seeing as how there is a lockout in the NFL and everything, I know they have plenty other things that they can be doing—it means a lot,” Franklin senior Anthony Taylor said. “They are out there spending their time with us, helping us get better, and at the same time we are trying to help [the younger kids] get better.”
Equally important was the time outside the lines, where the kids felt comfortable talking to the stars they see in helmets and shoulder pads on TV.
It’s those moments that Reed relishes the most, just being able to talk.
“There’s always something. Me and a couple kids, we sat down and talked yesterday for about an hour,” Reed said, as, fittingly, two campers casually walked up, shook hands and said thank you for the experience.
“They just want to talk,” he said. “Kids know that you are people too. Kids might say ‘okay, he’s Ed Reed, he’s in the NFL,’ but they understand that you are a person too, you’re a human too. They know, and they have fun with it.”