By Josh Schmidt
The Maryland football team kicked off its Youth Impact Program on Thursday evening with its annual Draft Night, held at the Gossett Football Team House.
Maryland Head Coach DJ Durkin was joined by members of his team and two former NFL players, including all-time Terrapin great Vernon Davis, to welcome the participants. Ten-year NFL veteran Riki Ellison, who is the founder and chairman of the Youth Impact Program, was also on hand to inspire the auditorium full of local families with his own story.
The Youth Impact Program brings together underprivileged children from in and around major cities to work with football teams, United States Marines, and local teachers. The program aims to help with issues that the students face in inner-city public schools through academic support, guidance counseling, character development, social interaction activities and nutrition.
From July 9-20, the program participants will work with various members of the Terps football team, the Marines, and have sessions with both math and reading teachers. Now in its third year at Maryland, there are over 75 children registered, including several return campers.
Ellison, born in New Zealand, moved to Arizona at a young age with his single mother where he found happiness and a future in football. Ellison began the program to help mold young men the way he felt he was molded once he found football at the age of 12.
“Leadership is indicated by our courage under pressure to do what is right and best,” Ellison said on Thursday.
Durkin, who initiated Maryland’s involvement in the program, believes there is a mutual benefit on both the participants and his players.
“This is not just some football camp, it’s way deeper than that,” Durkin said to the crowd. “That’s why we love doing this. You guys will learn a ton and get a lot out of these two weeks, but I know it also has a big time impact on our players. We look forward to this every year.”
Davis gave the longest speech of the evening to the children and their families. With excited Terps and Redskins fans snapping pictures of the local champion, Davis spoke about how perseverance and a good attitude guided his career from College Park to the NFL.
“Live as if you’re dying tomorrow, but learn as if you’re living forever,” Davis said. “That’s one of my favorite quotes. Just have faith in yourself.”
During the two-week camp, each participant will engage in roughly 60 hours of classroom time and 20 hours of football and fitness training, along with mentoring and teaching.