Seventy-five youth football players gathered at Kingsburg High School on June 30 to learn from Tyler Bray, a former Kingsburg football player and current NFL quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The children, ages 6-13, engaged in various drills designed to teach hitting, catching, throwing and running. Forty-five members of Kingsburg High's varsity team, led by head coach David Wilson, joined Bray to instruct the kids. Although the camp has been held at Kingsburg for more than ten years, this was only Bray's second year leading the camp.
"It's good to be back in Kingsburg," Bray said. "I grew up here since the sixth grade. Coming back here and sharing what I learned through the years with the kids is a good thing."
In 2009, Bray helped the Vikings get to the first of three straight Valley Championships. After going on to play with the University of Tennessee for three years, Bray signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 as an undrafted free agent.
At the football camp, Bray paid close attention as the kids worked on their throwing mechanics. When they didn't use the proper technique, Bray made them restart the drill until they got it right.
"I just want them to work hard. I didn't work as hard as I should have when I was their age," he said. "Looking back, I should have worked harder. It would have made me better than what I am today."
Bray also played basketball and baseball at Kingsburg, but he didn't know which sport would be in his future.
"I knew I was going to do something in one sport. Football just happened to be the sport," he said.
As a football player at Kingsburg, Bray worked under the leadership of head coach Dave Steele. Wilson was Bray's teacher in the classroom.
"I had [Wilson] for a couple of classes," Bray said. "I've known him for a while now, so it's good to come back and hang out with the guys."
Wilson, heading into his second year as the Vikings' head coach, hopes to keep the camp going for many more years.
"Anytime you have somebody who has gone on and done some great things, it's great. It's inspiring to the kids," he said. "Tyler is always willing."
Wilson said the camp not only benefits the kids but also the high school players and the community.
"I want our players to get in the community," he said. "The [community] does so much for us, fundraising and just being there Friday nights. This is one of our ways to give back. You can see our guys when their eyes get bigger and they start to enjoy being around the kids. They used to be those kids, not long ago."
Just like the varsity players on Friday nights, the kids kicked off the camp by running through the tunnel at Kingsburg's football stadium. After all the drills, the young players showed off their skills in a competitive obstacle course.
"It's not a fundraiser. It's not about making money. It's just about giving to the community," Wilson said. "Football is a very proud sport here at KHS. We get a lot of support for football, from Pop Warner all the way up. I went through it. A lot of the coaches went through the same system. The result shows."
Before ending the camp, Bray gathered the kids and gave them a message.
"I started when I was your age," he told them. "I went to the same high school as the coaches here, so listen to anything they tell you guys. They have played a lot more football than you guys, so any knowledge they give you guys is great. Go and have fun every day. Football is fun."
Although he has been plagued by injuries in his NFL career, Bray said he is growing under the leadership of Chiefs' starting quarterback, Alex Smith.
"I've had tough injuries, but I'm just trying to improve everyday and get better," Bray said. "[Smith] is a great guy. We have a great quarterback crew, great camaraderie."
Wilson said he believes that Bray will overcome the adversity.
"It's never going to be easy. There's always going to be those moments when life slows you down. I think [Bray] has responded really well so far," he said. "He's going to be a surprise in the NFL. I don't think people realize how good he is. He's going to get an opportunity and he'll take advantage of it."
At the end of this year's camp, the future Vikings went home with autographed footballs from Bray and Alex Smith. Bray also made time to sign shirts and take pictures with dozens of kids who flocked to him at the end of the night.