By Somer Breeze-Hanson, Northwest GuardianJuly 13, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Joint Base Lewis-McChord youths learned last week what it's like to play opposite Seattle Seahawks' strong safety Kam Chancellor.
The 7 to 14 year olds quickly figured out running into the 6-foot-3, 232-pound professional football player who recorded 97 tackles and one sack last season, is a lot like hitting a brick wall. As hard as they tried they just couldn't gather quite enough force to knock over Chancellor, who was on base July 2 for the Seahawks' Gatorade Junior Training Camp.
A recreation field on Lewis Main was turned into a miniature Seahawks football training facility, complete with six stations set up for different fundamental drills. This is the 17th year of the camp that travels to various locations in the Pacific Northwest every summer, but this year marked the first time the Seahawks held the camp at JBLM.
"As a Seahawks organization we like to support our many Soldiers in different ways," Seahawks' Assistant Director of Community Outreach Paul Johns said. "I was thinking we've never been out to the base and usually when we have camps they come out to our area. Why don't we go to them?"
The youths managed to wake up early on their summer vacation to be ready for drills at 10 a.m. For 90 minutes more than 100 participants took turns through the drills that included catching passes from Chancellor and focusing on their footwork as they ran through agility ladders. A crowd favorite was watching the youths run into Chancellor as hard as they could as he held a tackle pad in hopes of knocking him down.
"Watching them all work together is the most exciting thing to see," Chancellor said. "Being able to teach the kids and watching them smile and having fun."
Chancellor had assistance from JBLM coaches from Child, Youth and School Services. Cerik Harbert coaches youth baseball and flag football on JBLM and had the opportunity to help coach the kids alongside Chancellor.
"I'm still in shock," the Soldier from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment said. "He was standing right beside me. This is the first time I've ever spoken to an NFL player. I really had fun working with the kids, and meeting a professional football player is probably the highlight of the day."
Fourteen-year-old Jacob Kerwood just made the cutoff to attend the camp. While he hasn't played football since his flag football days, his parents thought it would be good for him.
"We thought this was a way to get him into something else because he does track," Kim Kerwood said.
The camp also served as a needed distraction for the teen who's father is deployed with the 593rd Sustainment Brigade. While Chancellor's father was not in the military, he grew up without a father figure and understood what some of his camp youth were going through.
"I had older guys I looked up to in the basketball gym and on the football field," Chancellor said. "I know coming out here and being that person to them excites them the same way I felt when I was a kid."
After the drills Johns sat down all the participants for an inspirational message about the importance of staying in school. Johns played for the Seahawks from 1981 to 1984 before suffering a career-ending injury. The camp ended around noon after all the youths had the chance to get autographs from Chancellor.
"A lot of these kids are moving a lot and don't really have anything stable," Harbert said. "So for them to get a chance to work with a professional football player like this, I think it's something they'll remember for the rest of their life."