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  • RANDY ALLEN / Special to The Bee

    Syd'Quan Thompson and several other former area players who have gone on to NFL careers, put on a free, three-hour football camp at Burbank High on Saturday.

  • RANDY ALLEN / Special to The Bee

    Levi Dudley, 7, works on his footwork at Syd'Quan Thompson's free benefit football camp at Burbank High. The registration fee? A donation of five cans of food.

  • RANDY ALLEN / Special to The Bee

    The Denver Broncos' Syd'Quan Thompson, left, signs an autograph for Izaiah Stephenson, 11. Thompson is a former Grant High School standout.

  • RANDY ALLEN / Special to The Bee

    Corey Cruz, 12, prepares to run a drill. Said Syd'Quan's cousin Peyton Thompson, a former Granite Bay High standout: "The biggest things I wanted to emphasize was work ethic, paying attention to details and listening."

Free football camp helps feed the hungry, too

Published: Sunday, Jul. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Jul. 15, 2012 - 10:52 am

Cody Cook hopes to play defensive back at Foothill High School this fall.

So he couldn't believe his good fortune Saturday at Burbank High School.

For three hours he was tutored by some of the area's best, including NFL players Syd'Quan Thompson (Denver Broncos), Coye Francies (Seattle Seahawks), Peyton Thompson (Atlanta Falcons), Eddie Elder (Arizona Cardinals), Asa Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) and Lavelle Hawkins (Tennessee Titans).

And it didn't cost a cent. The camp was free. All camp leader Syd'Quan Thompson asked was that each participant bring five cans of food to help feed the hungry.

"I've only been at this three years, but football is now a huge part of my life," Cook said. "So this was a great opportunity. I learned a lot today."

Cook, a 16-year-old junior, was among 125 youngsters, ages 5 to 17, who got an eye-opening experience that went beyond fundamentals and techniques.

They got to talk with area NFL and college players who once were in their shoes. There were autographs, photo opportunities, camp T-shirts and a post-camp barbecue.

But the biggest beneficiary was the River City Food Bank, which provides food aid to Sacramento County seniors and families living at or below the federal poverty line.

"When we learned that Syd'Quan wanted to give back to the community and was looking for a charity to help serve, it took us all of two seconds to say yes," said River City Food Bank executive director Eileen Thomas. "What a great thing for these players to do. We have such a tremendous need."

Cameron Morrow, Cook's mother, came away impressed.

Having only learned about the camp Friday night, she even stepped in to work as a volunteer.

"My husband is a Broncos fan, so when he learned Syd'Quan was putting it on, we decided to come," Morrow said. "I'm just really impressed to see all these NFL guys giving back to the community. I know it makes these kids feel great."

That was seconded by Vanessa Perla, mother of camper Gerardo Castro, who will be a freshman at Jesuit in the fall.

"The energy out here and the encouragement that these pro athletes showed today with these boys was such a positive, such a great example of a way to bring the community together and to do it for a good cause," Perla said.

Morrow and Perla agreed the camp also was important because training costs continue to grow and not every child can afford to attend a paid camp.

Although Morrow shelled out $240 so her son could attend a camp at Saint Mary's College earlier this summer, she found that he learned more in three hours in south Sacramento than in three days in Moraga.

"Saint Mary's was rough," Cook said. "We had practices three times a day and got killed to the point where it was even hard to walk. That was more about conditioning. I felt I came away from here learning more about how to actually play as a defensive back."

Thompson, who plays cornerback for Denver, smiled when he heard that.

"Teaching the fundamentals, that's the main thing we're trying to do," said the former Grant High and Cal star. "That and trying to be a good, positive influence."

The camp originally was aimed at seventh- to 12th-graders, but parents kept calling organizer B.T. Thompson, Syd'Quan's uncle, about allowing their younger children to participate.

So 7-year-old Levi Dudley and 9-year-old Kyle Anderson were among the pre-teens jitterbugging through drills in T-shirts that hung nearly to their ankles.

"The little kids cracked me up because they are so full of energy," Syd'Quan Thompson said. "Hopefully, these younger kids will see what we are trying to do and someday, when it's their turn, they'll give back."

But while most of the morning was about learning in a fun environment, Peyton Thompson, Syd'Quan's cousin, kept stressing focus.

"The biggest things I wanted to emphasize was work ethic, paying attention to details and listening," said Thompson, a former Granite Bay High and San Jose State standout.

"It doesn't matter how old you are, what level you are at or whether you are third string or a starter, you want to perfect your craft. It's those things that are going to carry on into your life beyond football."

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