RISON —The Tyrell Johnson Skill and Development Camp held Saturday was hosted by a current NFL player.
It was free.
It was held in Southern Arkansas.
The camp was the only one in the state to meet these three criteria according to internet searches.
Johnson’s camp was one of about a dozen being offered this summer in Arkansas. The prices for those one-day camps range from $35 to a $325 tab at the Ray Guy Pro Kicker Football Camp.
It was the price tag and being able to work with the Detroit Lions safety that brought standouts like Sheridan High School sophomore Eli Anderson and propelled 17-year-old West Memphis High School junior DeAndre Moore out of the house at 5 a.m. to get to Rison on time.
Aside from what he learned about defense, one of the surprising things Moore will be taking back with him to West Memphis is a new appreciation for college testing. Before the camp got under way, a college testing subject matter expert spoke briefly to the campers, and then Johnson shared his own story about ACT testing.
“I’m not a good test taker,” Johnson said. “I scored a 15 on my ACTs. I sent that score to all the colleges I was applying to, and though I had a 3.2 GPA, they didn’t want me. So I took it again, I got a 19. I took it again, and I got a 24.”
The takeaway message for the campers was academics and college testing scores are vital to getting into college sports, Johnson said. And college football hopefuls should make use of every resource available.
Being a resource for youths in Southern Arkansas was a driving factor of having the camp in Rison.
“Little Rock has got everything, but there is nothing in the southern part of the state,” Johnson said.
This less populated, more rural part of the state, is where Johnson calls home, and he wanted to bring back some of the things he learned since he left Rison to go to Arkansas State.
The idea grew during his first three years in the NFL when he was involved with NFL camps for youths.
“I wanted to do this camp to give back,” Johnson said. “When I was a kid, I never even spoke to a college player. I want these kids to have some development.”
But Johnson and his crew, which included former professional and college football players as well as high school coaches from Florida and Southern Arkansas, brought more than just techniques. They brought passion.
“I don’t want this to be one of those camps,” Johnson said. “I don’t just do things, just to do it. I put 100 percent into everything I do. I want every kid to leave here with something. I want them to leave here better.”
The roughly 200 campers were not just milled through the stations. Free agent Kevin Payne studied his campers as they went through his station. His focus never wavered during the four-hour camp, and every camper got the same scrutiny, from the youngest at age 9 to the oldest at 17.
“You don’t know what a kid is going to do in a couple of years by how he looks or what he is doing right now,” Payne said. “You have to treat each kid like he has potential and work to improve his current technique. We are focusing on the small things here, but they are important.”
Small things were a big deal at the camp.
“Attention to detail is the number one key to success in football – in anything, really,” Johnson said.
“That and being hungry. You can tell these kids are hungry. They take what you teach them and immediately apply it. I am highly impressed with how quickly these kids improved from when we started to when we ended.”