By Ms. Alexandra Shea (IMCOM)July 1, 2019
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Andre Roberts visited Fort Jackson June 18 and 19 as part of a Youth ProCamp for the installation's youngest athletes. Roughly 150 children, between first and eighth grade, crowded the Child and Youth Services Sports Field to take part in the camp.
Last year, Fort Jackson had an opportunity to win a visit from the camp as part of a contest through consumer goods corporation Proctor and Gamble and Fort Jackson's Commissary and Post Exchange. Fort Jackson Soldiers, veterans, civilians and their Families showed their support of the youth and helped ensure the camp made its way to the installation.
"These guys are excited to meet an NFL player and to have an opportunity to meet someone they have seen on TV," said Darius Lane, youth sports and fitness director. "Our patrons here at Fort Jackson did an awesome job of supporting the PX and Commissary and we were fortunate enough to win the ProCamp."
Andre Roberts was the NFL athlete who headlined the camp along with football coaches from local South Carolina high schools and universities. Roberts has strong ties to the Columbia community and Fort Jackson. His parents, both Soldiers, were stationed at Fort Jackson more than once.
Roberts attended Spring Valley High School where he was a two-sport athlete excelling in both football and track. He would later play football again for The Citadel where he started his NFL career by being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.
It didn't take much convincing on the Youth ProCamp coordinators' part to sign Roberts on to attend the camp in his hometown.
"This is the field I played on. I was at this center playing baseball and basketball growing up" Roberts said. "It's my hometown so it's always good to come back."
Roberts and his team of coaches taught the children fundamentals such as offensive and defensive drills, two and three point stances and how to catch a ball with their eyes before their hands.
"Even at the professional level, guys can catch the ball really well," Roberts said. "Most times when they have drops is when they don't catch it first with their eyes. It's the small fundamentals that make a difference in everything."
After running drills throughout the afternoon, the children were broken into teams and they used the skills they learned by playing short football games against each other. Before the youths took to the field, Roberts, along with his father, showed them his touchdown celebration. NFL players often perform a small dance, flip or jump with fellow players to celebrate making a touchdown. Whether it's an honor to his parents, nation or college heritage, Roberts often executes a salute for his touchdown celebration. Following the father and son team's example, the children stood at attention and executed salutes.
"I actually think that I am having more fun than the kids out here," Roberts said.
After the games were complete, each of the teams took a group photo with Roberts as a memento of the camp and winners of small contests held throughout the camp were announced. The winners received various small gifts and footballs autographed by Roberts.
"(My parents) have been my biggest supporters my whole life," Roberts said. "Having them here to watch me do what I do to help these kids (makes me proud.) I'm excited being here doing this."