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Thomas Football Camp offers opportunities for youth

With smiles on their faces and sweat pouring from their bodies, more than thousand youth relished in the opportunity to see a local football star.

Approximately 1,000 young athletes participated in the annual Earl Thomas III Football Camp on Friday on the campus of West Orange-Stark High School in West Orange taking part of various drills of skill, endurance and teambuilding exercises, while getting the rare opportunity to receive input and direction from several NFL players, as well as the chance to hopefully get a moment for a photo or conversation with Thomas, a native of Orange and Super Bowl champion defensive back with the Seattle Seahawks.
Local resident Brock Winder, a 13-year-old who plays football at Little Cypress Junior High, was attending the Thomas camp for the third time.
“I love camp football,” Brock said. “I’ve actually learned a lot by going to the camps in the past, like strategies and stuff.”
Brock said one of his favorite parts of camp is the drills and when the youth split into groups based on offense or defense.
“Breaking into groups, like offense or defense, is what helps you become a better player because that is when you get to really learn different things,” he added.
Although the majority of youngsters participating in the football camp reside in the local area, a great many of participants traveled great distances to be here. Some youth came were reported to have come from northern Louisiana and Arkansas to be here, as well as several from the Houston-area, such as Chaston Konstantinidis.
Chaston is a 14-year-old athlete from Mont Belvieu, Texas, near Baytown. This was his first time to attend the Earl Thomas III Football Camp.
“I came to camp because I have never been to one before, but I also wanted to meet Earl Thomas,” Chaston explained. “He’s one of my favorite football players, so I thought I would give his camp a try.”
Chaston said the experience was something he will remember for a long-time, and it made quite the impression on him.
“You have to rely on your teammates,” he continued. “Some of the drills really emphasized team work. I would definitely like to come back and do this again.”
Thomas has always been a big supporter of his community, which can be attributed to his parents, Earl and Debbie Thomas. The younger Thomas has continued to find ways to give back to his community since becoming an official NFL players approximately four years ago.
For camp each year, the Thomas family utilizes the resources of the staff and clients of OCARC for banners and trophies for the football camp. It matters so much to the family, Thomas paid a special visit to the organization early Friday before camp started since they could not participate this year.
“Earl and the family wanted us to come to camp this year, but it just wasn’t feasible,” said John Thomas, director of OCARC. “But the family has always been very supportive of OCARC. So Earl came to see us because he didn’t want to leave us out.”
Coach Cornel Thompson of the West Orange-Stark Mustangs, who coached Thomas during his time as a Mustang, concurred with the assessment of Thomas.
“He constantly is giving back to his hometown,” Thompson said. “It’s tremendous what he brings back to the community. Everybody’s an Earl Thomas fan.”
Thompson believes it is his dedication to his community and love of his hometown, as much as his play on the NFL field, which is why Thomas is such a popular figure.
“It’s amazing the number of volunteers he brings into this camp every year,” Thompson continued. “The amount of work that goes into this is just staggering, but they get it done. He’s never turned anybody away from his camp who wants to participate. He’s put Orange, Texas on the map and he’s proud to be from Orange.
“A lot of these youngsters at the camp, who come up to say hi to me or shake my hand, aspire to be athletes of some type, whether its football, basketball or baseball or whatever sport,” he added. “And they see Earl doing the things he does, like coming back to Orange to do this camp every year. That makes an impression on them.”