Top football stars highlight this summer's Peninsula sports camps

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When it comes to summer camps on the Peninsula, football still reigns as the No. 1 attraction.

And for good reason. The camps are usually loaded with some of the biggest names in the game.

For this summer's camps, those names don't get any bigger than quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, the 2011 Super Bowl MVP, and dynamic quarterback Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL's 2010 Comeback Player of the Year.

Vick, who began his amazing football journey in the youth leagues in Newport News, will be the first to take the field when he hosts his second annual football camp June 22-24 at Hampton University. Next on stage will be Rodgers, the headliner at the 18th annual Colonial All-Pro camp June 26-29 at William and Mary. And not far behind will be the 15th annual Peninsula All-Star camp — always featuring local NFL standouts — on July 8-9 at Christopher Newport University.

Vick, who led the Eagles to the NFC East title during his sensational comeback season, will have plenty of star power on hand to help out at his camp for ages 8-18. The list of invited players includes DeAngelo Hall of the Washington Redskins, Eagles teammate DeSean Jackson, Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings, and Chris Ellis of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rodgers, who threw for three touchdowns and 304 yards in the Packers' 31-25 Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be joined by Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker of the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh, the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"We've got a good mix of All-Pros coming in. And getting back-to-back Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks is just great. That's a coup for us," said Colonial camp director and W&M assistant coach Bob Solderitch.

Last year, quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints topped the celebrity list at Zable Stadium.

About 350 kids attended that camp and Solderitch expects at least that many this summer.

"Our theme is to teach the fundamentals of football and teamwork and have some fun. We actually play some games," Solderitch said.

The Peninsula All-Star camp, an annual project of the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation, always attracts a crowd. One reason is because it's free for 200 kids ages 8-13 and for 200 more invited area high school players.

This year's celebrity list includes head coach Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Antoine Bethea of the Indianapolis Colts, Jerod Mayo of the New England Patriots, Tyrod Taylor (drafted by the Baltimore Ravens), Vick, Ellis, and Harvin.

Each day's camp will end with a chat session involving the campers and some of the celebrities on real-life issues affecting today's youth.

The third annual Tailgating with Tomlin party on July 7 will be a prelude to the camp. This year's event — open to the public — will be from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the NASCAR Grille in Hampton.

For those hooked on other sports, there are camps to satisfy just about everyone's taste — from baseball to basketball, softball to soccer, golf to volleyball, and even fencing and pole vaulting.

Among the dozen or so camps for baseball lovers, the Virginia Baseball Academy offers numerous sessions, headed by former Major League pitcher Wayne Gomes. They will be held in June and July. There's also the Hampton Christian camp June 27-29 that includes guest instructors from the Peninsula Pilots.

Among the choices for basketball are boys and girls camps at CNU and William and Mary. John Krikorian, who took the helm as the Captains head coach this past season, will host his first camps at CNU while Carolyn Hunter, whose Lady Captains reached the Division III Final Four in March, is holding a series of camps beginning June 20-23.

For softball, there's nothing better than the 23rd annual Tidewater girls camp Aug. 9-11 at Deer Park. On hand will be three-time All American pitcher Stacey Nelson of the University of Florida, USA Junior National Team gold-medalist pitcher Ashley Brignac of Louisiana Lafayette, and hitting sensation Amber Jackson, a former National Pro Fast-Pitch Player of the Year.

"Amber is the most powerful hitter I have ever seen. She has never lost a home run derby contest," said Tidewater camp director and former pro coach Bobby Wills.

The Hampton Recreation Department will once again be offering its "Hook A Kid on Golf" camp July 18-22 at The Hamptons. The camp is designed for those youngsters ages 7-12 with no prior experience. Each participant will receive a starter set of clubs plus a custom bag, hat, shirt, and golf balls.

For those eager to raise their volleyball game to a higher level, highly-acclaimed coach Tom Peterson returns for the Elite Sports camp June 20-23 at the Quarterpath Rec Center in Williamsburg.

The camp is designed for intermediate to advanced players with school or club experience.

Peterson, the newly named women's coach at Weber State, led Penn State and Brigham Young to NCAA men's national titles in 1994 and 2004.

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