NFL players speak at GVSU Football Alumni Youth Camp
On June 20, Grand Valley State University teamed up with Amway to host the second annual GVSU Football Alumni Youth Camp inside the Kelly Family Sports Center.
About 250 kids from the Grand Rapids and Holland Boys and Girls Clubs poured into the facility for a chance to hear GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell and a trio of former Lakers – New Orleans Saints center Tim Lelito, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Charles Johnson and Arena Football League wide receiver Jovonne Augustus – share their thoughts on developing healthy lifestyle and nutritional habits.
"It's one thing when I say it, it's another thing when you try to get some NFL guys back that are playing for the Saints and playing for the Browns that can reinforce those messages,” Mitchell said. “It probably has a little bit more attraction to those kids than coaches or administrators.”
The boys and girls gathered around the 50-yard line as Mitchell, Lelito, Johnson and Augustus discussed the value of academics, eating healthy and the process of overcoming adversity.
Johnson drove his point home by saying that his NFL career isn’t going to last forever.
“I want to let people know that education is a key to success, and now – being plagued with injuries in my NFL career – I know that I might have to rely on that education one day,” said Johnson, who suffered a torn ACL last fall.
“It's all good to be an NFL player, it's all good to be a baseball player, but without an education there's really not much more you can do once you're out of that league,” he said. “I just tried to make them realize that without education you're not going to achieve higher goals.”
Higher education was also a main emphasis for Lelito.
The St. Clair, Mich. native said he quickly had to learn how to become a better student when he first arrived at GVSU. He said he gotten away with finishing his math homework five minutes before class started in high school, but discovered the value of being prepared at the college level.
"It was a big learning process for me," he said. "That experience helped me in the future in the NFL. In the NFL, they handed me a playbook and I couldn't walk in five minutes before and say 'I got that.'
“I had to, in my hotel room, sit there, study it, memorize it and put it into a context where I could learn it – so that failure early on at Grand Valley actually helped me."
After listening to the former Lakers, the boys and girls went through eight different football position drills in the five-hour camp, as current GVSU players and coaches encouraged them along the way.
The kids then learned about healthy eating habits at the Amway nutrition station before calling it a day.
“This is just another great opportunity to connect with our community,” said Angela Nelson, senior community relations specialist at Amway. “Overall, we just want the kids to live healthier lives and really grow up to be strong adults.
“These guys provide us really good examples because they’re big and tall, but to get to that stature you have to eat the right things.”