While the 35 or so kids who attended Thursday and Friday afternoon's third annual Golden Knight Youth Football Camp were guaranteed a chance to participate in various drills and run wild all over Friedman Field, they weren't the only ones having fun.
The St. Francis High camp, run by head coach Jim Bonds and assistant coach Pat Carroll, offered different, yet rewarding, experiences for those in attendance and those instructing.
“I look at this as a chance to engage the community and just let people know a little about St. Francis football,” Bonds said. “It allows area kids to interact with coaches and players and to see the campus, the football field and just get a taste of the Golden Knights' experience.”
The camp was intended for incoming sixth, seventh and eighth graders and hailed youngsters from away as far as the Santa Clarita Valley, while area kids in attendance belonged to such youth tackle football programs as the Burbank Vikings and La Cañada Gladiators.
One such aspiring high school football player was 13-year-old Clayton Byer, a Los Angeles resident, who plays flag football for Our Lady of Lourdes school.
“It was a lot of fun, but some of the drills were tough, especially the transition ones,” said Byer, who is also a member of the Gladiators. “It's cool meeting up with new groups and learning different things.”
Byer received instruction from the Golden Knights' coaching staff along with current players John Carroll, Dylan Crawford, Areg Nazarian and Avery Williams.
“I feel like this is our opportunity to give back to the community,” said Williams, who will be a junior in the fall. “It's great to work with the kids. It's fun. They're willing to learn and they pay attention and who knows how many of these guys will become Golden Knights.”
Perhaps the drill Williams enjoyed most was the defensive back drill, where would-be cornerbacks attempted to bat down or intercept a pass thrown to a wide receiver by assistant coach Elliot Jones.
On back-to-back tosses from Jones, the participating kids stepped on each other's feet en route to tripping themselves.
“That's what makes this fun,” Williams said. “You remember what that was like and what you were like at that age.”
Carroll assisted one camper, Devin Matthews of Glendale, on the finer points of a tackle after the 12-year-old partially missed on his first attempt.
“I didn't get an opportunity like this and a camp like this,” Carroll said. “I just hope I was able to help the kids. I'd love for them to come to St. Francis and for this school to be a power long after I graduate.”
Williams and Carroll worked together on several drills and exercises, including offensive/defensive line and tackling drills, agility drills, pass-catching training and work on the sled.
“That was really fun, watching [offensive line coach] Ted Corcoran out there with the big guys and not-so big guys,” Bonds said. “Everyone wanted to hit that sled.”
Dylan Sibal, a 10-year-old La Crescenta resident, agreed with Bonds and noted that it was particularly fun to tackle.
The quarterback for the Holy Redeemer flag football team, however, wasn't too fond of the receiving stations.
“Yeah, catching the ball was the hardest,” Sibal said. “I have to work on that.”
Learning wasn't just confined to the youngsters, as Bonds streamlined the camp from three to two days, in comparison with the previous two years, while also slashing the price from $125 to $50.
“We want people to come out and we definitely want to make this affordable for the community,” Bonds said. “As for the days, three was just one too many. Most importantly, we want these kids to have fun.”
At the conclusion of on-field seminars and drills on Thursday, Bonds called for a huddle and then told the kids there would be a 15-minute film session that included instructional content and highlights from Carroll, Crawford, Nazarian and Williams.
When the session ended, the kids were given popsicles, which garnered a big cheer.
“Hey, that's the biggest reward for me,” Bonds said. “I love to see these kids smile and know that they're enjoying themselves. If they're having fun, we're having fun. If they're not having fun, then why are we here?”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.