As temperatures threatened to peak in the 90s, young campers ran drill after drill on the field as their parents, siblings and supporters watched from the stands.
Ryan Altizer, executive director of the Jason Witten SCORE Foundation, said around 1,100 campers took part in between the two segments. Participants ages 7 to 12 began at 9 a.m. and ages 13 to 18 started their camp day after lunch.
The camp was begun by now-former Dallas Cowboys player Jason Witten, and takes place on the field at his old school. Now that he’s making the move from the field to a new broadcast career at ESPN, this will be the camp’s last year.
However, this bittersweet notes didn’t keep families from all across the state from getting in their cars and bringing their kids to learn from a former Cowboy.
Earl Walker from Monterey, Tennessee, woke up early this morning for the three-hour drive to Elizabethton to spend the day watching his 9- and 13-year-old sons practice on the field.
He says his family is definitely a football family with both boys playing regularly and taking part in the camp. His youngest son, Vinny, played in the earlier half of the camp. Vinny said he had a fun time and that he met campers from out of state, something he didn’t expect.
Walker and his sons were joined at the camp by another parent from Monterey, Jennifer Philips, who packed up the car with her son and a few of his friends to come and attend the camp. She said she thought the camp was a great opportunity for the boys to learn, even if it was a bit of a drive.
Phillips said her son’s only been playing football for two years, but they’re already becoming a football family.
“Slowly but surely,” said Phillips. “We’re turning into one!”
The camp also brings out a local of local football players.
Robin Drains, a Church Hill native, spend the second half of the day jumping from one side of the field to another watching his two sons Cameron, 18, and Caden, 13, throughout the second session of the day.
He said that the boys’ mom isn’t a sports person, so he takes the boys to events like this and he enjoys it, despite the heat.
The camp is also family run.
While the event is the creation of Jason Witten, Jason’s brother Ryan is the head coach at the event and his brother Shawn is the head head coach of the Elizabethton High School football team. The three coach the campers throughout the day.
Kim Barnett, the three brothers’ mom, said that no doubt they are a true “football family” and that the camp brings them all together each year. Barnett said the ending of the camp is bittersweet.
“It’s a lot of hard work. We’ve touched a lot of kids’ lives, we hope, and as with everything comes change,” said Barnett.