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For the third straight year, college and NFL players gathered at Bandys High School to work with area high school football players on Friday.
Newton-Conover, Maiden, Bandys, St. Stephens and four other schoolsâ€™ athletes participated in drills and took advice during the third annual Justin Harper Oddie Cares Foundation football camp.
This yearâ€™s camp had even more of special meaning to Harper after the passing last night of 9-year-old â€śRobbieâ€ť Caskey, a close friend of Harperâ€™s in the Bandys community.
Harper said the young man had a special place in his life.
â€śAbout two years ago, I met Robbie,â€ť Harper said. â€śYou talk about transforming a manâ€™s life. At the age he was at, I never grew up with a dad. I watched the relationship between him and his dad. He is a big part of me.â€ť
Harperâ€™s experience with Caskey has come full circle, as he is giving back to high school football players in the area.
â€śThis is why Iâ€™m trying to do this camp,â€ť Harper said. â€śIâ€™m trying to bring my guys out here and try to impact a lot of young peopleâ€™s lives.â€ť
Not only were college and pro athletes a part of the camp, but former Newton-Conover football player Octavius Harden decided to participate this year as a counselor after participating in the camp a number of years.
â€śI get to see some of the players I left behind,â€ť Harden said. â€śI get to see how they have grown. I get to take more of a mentor position rather than be a teammate. I can give advice that helped me out. Itâ€™s a good way to pass what I know on to someone else, even if they arenâ€™t from my school.â€ť
Current Washington Redskins and former Virginia Tech defensive back Victor â€śMachoâ€ť Harris has participated in the camp all three years of its existence.
He said interacting with college and NFL players can change the perception for many of those participating.
â€śI can remember back when I was a young kid,â€ť Harris said. â€śI never got a chance to see an NFL football player, except for one player when I was in the fifth grade. I always remembered. His name was Ed Perry. Ever since then, I felt like I could make it. I know if it made a difference in me back then, it definitely can make a difference for them.â€ť
Jarrett Boykin, a junior flanker for the Virginia Tech football team in his second year with the camp, said Harper had an impact on his career.
â€śJustin Harper was a guy I looked up to coming into Virginia Tech,â€ť Boykin said. â€śI wear his number 81. Just for us to come out here, give back to these kids and putting them in a positive direction is great.â€ťView more articles in: