I can still remember my first football camp.
I was six years old. The youngest son of a teacher and union worker, who grew up in the rural outskirts of Chicago. I didn’t have any special connections or inroads to the world of football and truthfully no special skills, at that time that set me apart. That football camp at Nebraska University’s Memorial Stadium in the summer of 1995 changed me, and the trajectory of my life. Never before had I seen or been close to premier players like freshman All-American running back Ahmad Green, who helped the Huskers win a National Championship. Green went on to thrive with a stellar NFL career.
As parents, we want to expose our children to experiences and opportunities we never had. Throughout my life, I’ve learned exposure is key and unlocks the door to limitless possibilities, especially with the right attitude, training and environment.
When we created AZYFC that became the goal, create an environment that provides the exposure to premier coaches and a game I love, whether the child is an elite athlete or lacing up cleats for the very first time. The game of football is difficult and requires mental toughness and discipline — skills that will serve boys and girls their entire lives.
When I look back on my first camp, I was just a kid with a dream, but being exposed to the preparation and hard work required to be one of the best, influenced me to improve my habits and become a better football player. From that point on, everything I did mattered: nutrition, lifting weights, studying film and my techniques. I left Nebraska with a newfound drive to stand apart and get recognized the following summer and not just be another kid attending a Big Red Football Camp.
I dedicated that following year to my goal and I researched everything about improving my mind and body. I was a sponge always looking for ways to progress. The following year, legendary Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne after the camp acknowledged me as one of the elite campers out of hundreds of kids attending; Coach Osborne doing so changed my football life.
Now, as a dad to an 18-year-old elite running back, who was awarded a scholarship to play at my alma mater, Northwestern University, it’s rewarding to know I have done all I can to put Drake in a position to succeed on and off the field. I shared everything I knew and have learned. I did my best to give my son all the answers to the test. Now that he’s grown, that’s what I hope to do for kids throughout Arizona and the nation, share my knowledge and passion for a sport that’s given me so much.
I want participants of AZ Youth Football Combine to experience the rewarding feeling of accomplishing their goals. I want them to know what it’s like to celebrate a win with friends and family, the excitement of scoring their first touchdown or even know the the joy of benching 225 pounds for the first time. I want them to learn from their losses, find areas to improve and become better in all ways.
I wasn’t a natural at football. It took some time to develop, but I embraced my potential. Success was my reward. Whatever the goal or desired level of success, it’s my hope to expose, inspire and equip all the kids who participate in AZ Youth Football Combine. I truly know it only takes one football camp to motivate and alter a child’s life.
By, Damien Anderson
AZ Youth Football Combine co-founder/former NFL player/dad to elite athlete