For the second consecutive year, House of Raeford Farms FLOCK sponsored the Jeremiah Castille Character Football Camp in Wallace, North Carolina. The two-day camp focused on character building and skill development for both on and off the field.
Nearly 600 student-athletes from six North Carolina counties attended the camp this year, up from 400 athletes last year. While the players were learning footwork, tackling, and blocking, they were also focused on developing character skills like mental toughness and inner strength.
Hunter Grady, an offensive lineman for East Duplin High School, said he attended the camp specifically to work on his skills off the field.
“I’m really hoping to improve my leadership skills so I can be a better teammate and apply those skills going forward to help other people,” said Grady, who hopes to join the United States Air Force one day.
“This experience really has inspired me to become a better person in general,” said Ray Barnett III, wide receiver for Trask High School. “I’m taking what I’m learning and putting it into my own life at home and at school.”
This year’s camp also featured a valuable lesson in sportsmanship as the athletes witnessed a surprise reunion between Castille and his former on-field rival, Earnest Byner — an East Carolina University alumnus and former NFL running back.
Castille and Byner faced each other in the 1987 AFC Championship Game during a play that has come to be known as “The Fumble.” With 1:05 left on the clock, the Broncos’ Castille stripped Byner of the ball at the Broncos’ 2-yard line, destroying the Browns’ chances of making it to the Super Bowl that year. The two former NFL legends had not seen each other in 30 years until they reunited at the camp.
When speaking to the students before the camp started, Byner emphasized his ability to overcome the adversity he faced in Cleveland after “The Fumble.”
“Part of winning is what I call going through life’s process,” Byner said to the crowd of students just before the first drills of the camp started. “’The Fumble’ is a story. It’s only part of the story. But it’s a story. It doesn’t define the rest of my life.”
The lesson in resiliency was a message Castille encouraged as well, underlining the point that one moment will not define the players’ lives or their ability to achieve success.
“You’re in the presence of greatness,” Castille said to the students, referring to the professional and college-level players at the camp. “And you too can go on and be great.”
The positive messages aligned with the mission of FLOCK, the independent, nonprofit arm of House of Raeford Farms that focuses on youth development and hunger relief. Both FLOCK and House of Raeford believe in helping young people by providing them with the tools they need to live fulfilling and productive lives.
“FLOCK values youth development and we want these young athletes to find success in life whether or not they’re playing football after high school,” said Tom Teachey, director of community outreach for House of Raeford in Duplin County. “Sportsmanship, mental and physical toughness, inner-strength, and focus are all skills that will serve these young folks well, no matter where they end up. It’s a powerful message from Jeremiah and Earnest, and it’s one we fully support.”