ICARD — At the closing ceremonies of the third annual Coach Tate Foundation Football Camp Saturday at East Burke High, many 5 to 12-year-old boys were reminded by the instructors that they had been given the keys to football, but also that it was now up to them to tend to their academics and life skills.
“(This weekend) was a great opportunity to use the platform of football to talk about character traits and to talk about academics,” said East Burke football coach Jim Ruark. “We talked about the football skills, but we also had mentoring sessions (Friday) to give them some life lessons. I think that’s a real important piece, along with energizing the community about football and learning it’s more than just wins and losses.”
Washington Redskins defensive tackle Kedric Golston, the head instructor for the Tate Camp for the third consecutive summer, used those mentoring sessions to teach campers about the life of an NFL football player, especially in light of the recent Aaron Hernandez murder charges.
“Whether he is innocent or guilty, he had the world in his hands and it was bad decisions leading up to the point where he is at now — behind bars with a judge and jury deciding his fate,” said Golston. “To be a professional athlete was the goal I was working towards, but I had to do really well in school because if my grades weren’t high enough in school, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t play.”
Golston, a former standout for the University of Georgia, recalled a moment during his high school years at a camp at Georgia Tech in which he learned academics were more important than his athletic skills.
“I had a reality check that I had all the athletic ability to be in the position (to play college football), but if I didn’t take care of my school work, I was going to flush it down the drain,” said Golston. “Football has taught me a lot of things about hard work and about outworking people, but it doesn’t matter (what your career path is). You have to be willing to outwork people and be on task because all those things make a professional.”
Former Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Roman Gabriel III, founder of Sold Out Youth Ministries, also delivered a message about hard work and dedication.
“There is no replacement for God, family and hard work,” Gabriel said. “Reaching that American dream is simple by reaching your maximum potential, using your God-given abilities and having the opportunity to set goals on what you want to accomplish.”
Gabriel also added the importance of a parent’s influence, describing how his mom and dad were keys in building his life’s foundation.
“It’s a big deal to have my mom and dad at events like this (growing up), and it set the foundation for my life, learning life skills and morals and principles. I live that same way with my own kids and grandkids today.”
Coach Johnny Tate’s oldest daughter, Phrantceena Halres, said she couldn’t feel prouder about how Tate’s legacy is carrying on through this camp.
“I know my dad would be so happy, and this is what he dedicated his life to … seeing these young men grow up to be outstanding men in this world,” she said.
In the years to come, Golston hopes to stay with the camp as long as possible while bringing together campers throughout the Western N.C. region and then some.
“The bigger (the attendance of camp), the better. We planned to have 400 kids here, having the whole region from Boone to Hickory and even closer into Charlotte to come to these camps,” said Golston. “I feel real positive (about the last three years of camp), and the message has been the same from day one, to use sports to teach life skills.”