There are a lot of people who would pay good money for the opportunity to meet a two-time Super Bowl champion and get an autograph. On Saturday morning, nearly 500 kids had the privilege to meet one for free.
New England Patriot defensive back Duron Harmon held his first-ever Duron Harmon Football Camp at Hodgson Vo-Tech, admittedly not knowing what type of turnout or success he’d have with his inaugural attempt at hosting a camp.
As the morning was nearing completion and Harmon stepped away from coaching on the field to visit with the media in the north end zone of the football stadium, he took a moment to look across the field at the sea of kids running through drills in nearly perfect weather. A huge smile appeared across his face.
“Amazing. Beyond my wildest imagination,” said Harmon, who played at Caesar Rodney High School and Rutgers University before being drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. “To see all these kids out here all having a great time. To see the parents, the smiles on their faces. Seeing the coaching staff interact with [the players]. Seeing the players interacting with each other. It’s an amazing experience. I couldn’t have dreamt anything better than this. I’m just excited I was able to be part of something this special.”
Harmon wasn’t just a figurehead at his camp. Throughout the morning, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound chiseled 27-year-old bounced around from group to group shouting encouragement, making corrections and doling out high-fives.
“I just wanted to get them out here and let them know that you can accomplish what I’ve accomplished,” said Harmon, a member of Caesar Rodney’s 2008 state championship team. “I tell them, yes it’s extremely hard. A lot of people don’t even get a chance to even sniff the NFL. But if it’s something that you really want to do and something you really want to sacrifice for, you can do it.”
Among the NFL players in attendance were Delaware natives Alex Ellis (Delmar High, Kansas City Chiefs) and Briean Boddy Calhoun (University of Minnesota, Cleveland Browns). They were joined by Carlton Adugosi (Arizona Cardinals), Tim Wright (Kansas City Chiefs), Logan Ryan (Tennessee Titans) and a host of other high school and college coaches who eagerly accepted Harmon’s invitation to help out.
“It’s surreal, man, just the amount of support that I got from not only the families but the coaching staff,” Harmon said. “I have coaches from all over the East Coast today that volunteered their time to come out here and help me with my first annual football camp. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
On what was a splendid summer day, hundreds of parents and other spectators lined the sidelines of the fields knowing they’d get a glimpse of some live NFL players. They were also treated to some impressive football, especially during the last hour of the non-contact 7-on-7 competition.
“This camp helps the players get to see a guy from Delaware who started out in football just like they did,” Andre Smith Sr. said in between taking pictures along the sidelines. “They are getting to learn from extremely intelligent football minds. This is something you don’t get to do every day.”
Smith’s son, Andre Jr., is a rising freshman at Caravel Academy who hopes to play linebacker for the Buccaneers.a
“I had a great experience,” Smith Jr. said. “The camp was very well organized and helpful. Each drill was well crafted and succeeded in teaching valuable technique. I also really enjoyed the competitive style drills and 7v7. It gave you a chance to use technique you learned from the previous drills. Ultimately, the camp was fun and it was great learning from the best Delaware has to offer.”
When Harmon decided he wanted to host a camp in his home state and found out that Caesar Rodney’s stadium would be under construction to install a new turf field, the former Rider turned to Hodgson head coach Frank Moffett Jr., a fellow Caesar Rodney alumnus, and asked him if he’d be willing to help host the camp.
“It’s great what we were able to accomplish here,” explained Moffett, who had two of his former players who played with Harmon at Rutgers, twin brothers Jamal and Jamil Merrell, volunteering at the camp. “Hodgson is not really a community school, but I thought this event here brought a lot of different communities together for a day of teaching and learning the game of football. To see the kids, even the parents, really enjoying the event is a wonderful thing. It’s great to see a Delaware native come back home and put on an event like this for kids.”
At the end of the morning, after 150 boxes of pizza were devoured, the players gathered around Harmon one last time for a camp photo before walking away with a drawstring bag with the camp logo emblazoned on it and a water bottle and autographed picture of Harmon tucked inside. Each player also took with them an important message.
“Work hard,” Harmon told them. “You can’t beat people who work hard. Hard work always beats talent any day. Especially when talent doesn’t work hard. When you put hard working people with talent, the sky is the limit.”
For the nearly 500 kids in attendance at his first camp, Harmon helped put that sky just a little bit closer within their reach.