Paying it forward
GV alumni turned NFL stars return to Allendale to give back
The first Grand Valley State University Alumni Youth Football camp brought vessels of energy and excitement to Allendale as four former GVSU football players now playing in the NFL reached out not only to kids across West Michigan, but also the GVSU football team.
“It was great to see a lot of our present players and some of our past players come together for this camp,” head coach Matt Mitchell said. “It really shows how strong the Grand Valley community is.”
Cameron Bradfield (Jacksonville Jaguars), Dan Skuta (San Fransisco 49ers), Nick McDonald (New England Patriots) and Brandon Carr (Dallas Cowboys) were all able to make the trip back to Allendale to headline the camp.
“I had some of the best times of my life here at Grand Valley, so it was a no brainer to come back and help out the kids today,” Carr said. “It’s great to see the current players help out at the camp, as well.”
About 250 kids between the ages of 8-12 took part in the free four-hour event, where they also learned nutritional information from Amway and its importance in daily life.
GVSU and Amway were able to come together in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club to make this event possible.
“We reached out to Amway and were able to also get together with the Boys and Girls Club to be able to get these kids a free clinic,” Mitchell said. “It’s not just about football—it’s about creating a healthy lifestyle for these kids, as well.”
Seeing the familiar faces that are now rising stars in the NFL also gave many current GVSU athletes a chance to gain some knowledge and motivation, as Carr may know better than anyone else how difficult it is to make it from Division II to the NFL.
“Division II is a long road to the NFL, but it makes you cherish every moment and every opportunity you get,” Carr said. “Here it’s carpe diem. You have to take advantage of every opportunity you get. That’s really the best message I could give to the current players here.”
Receiving such advice from professionals most often seen on TV or from stadium seats generated much excitement from the campers. The elation from many of the kids is more than enough reason for GVSU student athletes and alumni to come back to this camp in future years.
“It feels great to be able to come back to Grand Valley and give back to all of these kids,” Bradfield said.
Both Athletic Director Tim Selgo and Mitchell are confident that they will be able to continue to bring in football alumni, along with willing sponsors in the future.
“This is home for me,” said Bradfield. “You know any chance I have to come back and help out, I’m going to take it. This is great for not only Grand Valley but for the Grand Rapids community, as well.”
As the first Alumni Youth Football camp concluded on the longest day of the year, many hope and expect that this will soon be a new tradition at Grand Valley as more and more GVSU Lakers look to build the alumni support.