Walter Camp Weekend in New Haven is much more than just a celebration of excellence in college football.
To kick off the weekend of events, the Walter Camp Foundation put on a special rally for local middle school students in the New Haven area.
The Walter Camp Football Foundation, named for football great Walter Camp, is a volunteer organization that focuses on paying tribute to those to contribute to the sport and supporting humanitarian programs.
Even with cheerleaders and a band inside New Haven’s Floyd Little Athletic Center, it wasn’t your typical pep rally.
“I know these kids they hear it so much from everyone their teachers and their parents and sometimes it’s a little bit different when the message comes from a professional athlete,” New York Giants offensive lineman and former Walter Camp All-American Nate Solder said.
Solder, who won two Super Bowls with New England, joined other pro athletes and guests of the Walter Camp Foundation to send a message to nearly 2,000 middle school students: stay in school.
“I absolutely do see myself in some of these girls and I think a lot of times you have insecurities you might feel awkward where you are, but if you just find your passion and your purpose it will take you to places you never even thought of,” said Chiney Ogwumike of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
Ogwumike is balancing her playing career with being an NBA analyst for ESPN.
“No matter what you do having a background of academics coming to school being the best student you can be will help open doors because if you have that,” she said. “Everything else is possible.”
Eighth-grade student Jarel Delgado said he especially enjoyed one of the speeches.
“The NBA player that won a championship with the Chicago Bulls cause I like basketball and I’m a basketball player,” he said.
Delgado is talking about former UConn Husky and Southern Connecticut State University’s men’s basketball coach Scott Burrell.
“Anytime you can help other kids and motivate them and give them something you learned during your life lessons its always great,” Burell said.
In the afternoon, some of the athletes paid a visit to patients at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.
“I love Walter Camp and what they stand for they’re coming to high schools, they’re going to hospitals,” Solder said.
At the end of the rally, Delgado said he feels inspired.
“It motivates me to stay in school that’s what we need, that’s what New Haven needs,” he said.
Students from neighboring towns were bused in for the stay in school rally. There will be a similar visit with patients Friday at Yale-New Haven Children’s hospital.
The dinner honoring the 2018 Walter Camp All-Americans and other award winners is Saturday night at Yale’s Payne Whitney Gym.
This 2018 Walter Camp honorees include Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovoiloa (Player of the Year), Alabama head coach Nick Saban (Coach of the Year), Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (Alumni of the Year) and ESPN personality Mike Golic (Man of the Year).
The foundation is also recognizing Clemson football’s equipment manager David Saville as a Walter Camp “American Hero.”
After attending the national championship game won by his Tigers Monday in Santa Clara, California, Saville is in New Haven this weekend and he took part in Friday’s rally and the visit to Connecticut Children’s.