It's not uncommon for kids to like sports – the invigorating physical exertion, the fresh air and warm sun on their skin, friends and parents cheering them on. But my 10-year-old son, Javier, absolutely loves them, especially football, a sport he's only recently decided is his favorite. So when I told him I was signing him up for the Jarvis Landry Football ProCamp, he instantly whipped his head around to face me, his eyes widening with excitement. "From the Miami Dolphins?" he squealed, not yet believing what I was saying. "Yep," I replied, "and you're going to have dinner with him, too!"
If I can inspire even one kid, whether it's to play football or simply to follow their dream, that's it for me.
We're Floridians, so naturally the Miami Dolphins are among his favorite teams. Learning that he and star wide receiver Jarvis Landry would meet face-to-face fueled Javier with excitement for weeks.
The two-day camp was held at Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches, FL, about 30 minutes from Miami. Resort-style communities, wide open green spaces, and a large number of horse ranches make the area feel like a rural hideaway from the urban jungle. The sprawling campus has an enormous football field and excellent facilities in case of rain, which came in handy when, on day two, the campers and coaches were forced to move the entire operation indoors.
Drills and skills
For two-and-a-half hours each day, campers practiced drills and learned fundamental skills as they moved between various stations set up around the football field. Games and contests rounded out the activities, so everybody was moving constantly. The coaches split up the kids – all 200 of them, including a few girls who were just as pumped as the boys – into teams based on their age. (The camp is open to children in first through eighth grades.) The coaches were a huge part of the fun. From college students to retirees, they all had one thing in common: an unabashed love of kids and football. From how to construct a play to how to catch a football from different positions, they happily went around giving each child tips and instruction.
In the center of it all was the Dolphins' Jarvis Landry, dressed in a bright orange ProCamp T-shirt that made him easy to spot anywhere on the field. The 23-year-old rising star excitedly moved from one group to the next, high-fiving kids when they caught a ball or finished a drill. During a foot race, he served as timekeeper, cheering the kids as they raced past him with their oversized Jarvis Landry ProCamp T-shirts blowing in the breeze behind them.
When one boy struggled to get over the finish line, Landry chased him down to pat him on the back for a job well done. It's that one-on-one contact that makes ProCamps like these unique. Javier was definitely enjoying the access to a "real, live" football player – I could tell by the dozens of smiles he sent my way as I watched from the sidelines.
Javier's widest smile came during a private dinner that Landry hosted in the school cafeteria on day two, one of several perks open exclusively to Citi cardholders. Along with 15 other campers and their companions, we enjoyed a buffet dinner of ribs, wings, potato salad, and chocolate cake – just the hearty meal you'd expect from a football star. After piling our shiny red plastic plates high, everybody spread out across various round tables to nosh and ogle Landry as he made his way through the cafeteria alongside his mother, Dietra Landry, saying hello to everyone. After a brief welcome, Landry invited each child to walk up to take an individual photo with him and ask him anything. "What's your favorite part about being in the NFL?" a little boy wearing a Miami Dolphins jersey asked. "This!" said Landry. "Having the opportunity to be here with you and give back."
Landry grew up playing various sports in Louisiana, where his older brother, also an athlete, was his idol. "My brother and my coaches were my mentors," explains Landry. "If I can inspire even one kid, whether it's to play football or simply to follow their dream, that's it for me."
When it came to Javier's turn to ask a question, he proved to know a lot more about Landry than I realized. "How did it feel to play with Odell [Beckham, Jr.]?" he asked, referring to the New York star wide receiver. It turns out Beckham and Landry played football together in college, and they've famously remained great friends ever since. "Amazing," replied Landry. "That's one of the great things about football – you get to play with your friends." (Coincidentally, the Odell Beckham, Jr. Football ProCamp was held July 26, 2016.) As we filed out of the cafeteria, each camper was handed a goody bag that included an autographed Miami Dolphins mini helmet, which Javier has displayed proudly in his room.
The ProCamp wrapped with closing ceremonies in the gym. Several raffles throughout the weekend featured everything from an autographed football to a full package of pads, and it was time to announce the winners. One by one the lucky campers whose raffle entries Landry pulled from a giant bowl walked up to the main stage area to claim their prize and take a photo with Landry. After a heartfelt goodbye to the kids filled with words of encouragement about staying "positive, gracious, and kind, no matter what sport or path you choose in life," Landry asked the campers to give their parents a round of applause. "You have to thank them for bringing you here," he said. As if solidifying his bond with the campers, the star wide receiver suddenly pointed to his mother, who was sitting off to the side. "My mom brought me here, too!"
Get even more access to the Miami Dolphins by purchasing access to their VIP Training Camp Experience. Citi cardmembers can enjoy a VIP tented area, an exclusive tour of the practice facility, complimentary food and beverages, and autograph opportunities.
For more information on upcoming sports events in your area, and to get behind-the-scenes access and discounted tickets to ProCamps like Ana and Javier did, visit https://www.citiprivatepass.com/sports.html.