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Darius Dortch, 11, of Camp Pendleton, builds his speed in a sprinting drill. “I love it!,” Dortch said. The two-day football camp was held on base for children of active duty military. Photos by Promise Yee
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NFL players teach free football, cheer camp for Camp Pen youth

OCEANSIDE — The intensity on the field could be felt as 150 boys, ages 8 to 17, focused, sprinted, caught footballs and ran them in. Many of the boys had played on Pop Warner football teams, but this camp was coached by NFL players. 

The free football and cheerleader camp was held July 18 and June 19 at Camp Pendleton Marine Base.

Hall of Fame Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson and former Los Angeles Rams cornerback and punt returner LeRoy Irvin were among the NFL players who volunteered to coach.

During football camp skills were taught and coaches barked out uplifting sayings to inspire the boys to bring their best to each drill.

The first day skills were introduced. Position drills, speed and agility were taught.

The second day the boys competed against each other and pushed their newly learned skills.

The annual camp began three years ago when Irvin suggested the idea to Dickerson.

Irvin was raised in a military family and knows the challenges kids face moving, changing schools and having a parent who serves our country.

He and a friend talked about starting a youth football camp on base. Irvin said he was behind the idea, but knew he needed a bigger name to draw sponsors and asked Dickerson to help.

The Eric Dickerson Foundation reached out to companies and private donors and made it happen.

NFL players were recruited to coach including Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, Christian Okoye, Leonard Russell, Vince Ferragamo, David Hill and Anthony Miller.

After a successful first year, boys attending the camp asked if it would be held again next year. Dickerson said he could not say no.

“My first year holding the football camp at Camp Pendleton was the greatest feeling I had since I played in the NFL,” Dickerson said. “It is important we continue to invest in the future as we were given those opportunities.”

The camp continues to be an action packed two-day annual event. Drills, relays and speakers are changed up every hour.

The second year a cheerleader camp for 50 girls, ages 6 to 14, was added.

The cheer camp is coached by former Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders. Drills, teamwork, dance routines, kicks, speed and agility are taught.

“Both camps will also include a strong message about the importance of education, commitment and community giving,” Geri Murillo, Eric Dickerson Foundation administrator, said. “The coaches want to give back to the community as they were given.”

Boys and girls received lessons on sports injury prevention, nutrition, goal setting and sportsmanship.

They were also given a camp T-shirt, fed catered lunches, and sent home with a goodie bag.

An award was given to every participant.

Murillo said the goal of the camp is to instill confidence and personal best in youth.

“The goal here is to build confidence to participate in future sports, whatever it is,” Murillo said.

“It might not be football. Whatever sport it is, we want the kids to give it their best.”