June 21, 2009
STARKVILLE -- The smiles were all the satisfaction that Camp Complete director Willie Gillespie needed.
While teaching football was the primary purpose of the camp on Friday and Saturday at Starkville High School, Gillespie hopes the participants had a good time in the process.
Gillespie, who played football at East Mississippi Community College and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga before spending three years with the NFL''s Tampa Bay Bucaneers, said the camp was all about making the children of the community feel special.
"It''s most beneficial when we see the kids having fun," Gillespie said. "The people working the camp have done a good job of motivating them and encouraging them. We really want to make it a fun time and want to get other kids involved. This could be something that turns out most beneficial for the entire community, not just Starkville."
Those taking Gillespie up on his invitation to be a part of the camp were New York Jets quarterback Erick Ainge, formerly of the University of Tennessee, Travis Outlaw of the NBA''s Portland Trail Blazers, Mississippi State wide receiver Brandon McRae and former Mississippi State tight end Eric Bulter.
Starkville mayor Parker Wiseman stopped by the camp activities Saturday morning to show his support.
"This is wonderful," Wiseman said. "I''m so thankful the organizers put this together. It''s about building community and a wonderful opportunity for these kids to get around some role models and learn some things during the summer."
Prior to Saturday''s activities, Gillespie asked Wiseman, Outlaw and Ainge to speak to the campers as a group.
Ainge''s message to the campers was how much fun they can have playing football.
"We tell them how important it is to do exactly what they are doing which is come out here, play and be outside even though it seems 250 degrees," Ainge said with a grin. "It doesn''t matter who the best is, how fast you can run or how high you can jump. If you are out here playing the game, that''s what the goal is."
Even though some of them may have been weary from the heat, the eyes of the campers lit up when they saw Ainge, Outlaw and the other athletes.
Jaylene Holt, 9, and Christopher Gholar, 10, campers from Columbus, were excited to be a part of the weekend.
Holt said he learned how to become a better fullback, but to much of the surprise of his instructors, he already knew quite a bit.
"They said I was a good fullback and already knew how to block and how to run," Holt said.
The highlight for Gholar was meeting the professional and Mississippi State players, especially MSU tight end and Starkville native Thomas Webb, but he also learned several aspects of football.
"Thomas Webb became my best friend," Gholar said. "I''ve learned how to catch passes, run the ball, pass the ball, kick, pass and punt."
There were approximately 52 participates in the camp and Gillespie wants to make it an annual event.
Gillespie hopes the camp grows to where it can cover two weekends in the future.
"We hope enough positive things happen that it will encourage others to send their kids and see how beneficial it can be for their kids," Gillespie said. "An ideal situations would be to dedicate an entire weekend for the little kids and an entire weekend for the varsity. That''s our goal."