TJ Barnes of the Carolina Panthers returned to the site of his high school football days, Bates Memorial Stadium, this past weekend for his Second Annual Youth Football Camp.
Nearly 60 youth football players from around the area – and some from as far away as Mobile – came out to learn from Barnes and a number of other former Enterprise stars.
“It was kind of scary a little bit,” Barnes said of the turnout. “We started promoting it really late, so I was really scared that there would be like 10 or 12 people out here.
“Just the fact that 58 kids came out – we had about 120 sign up but some were scared of the weather and what not – made me extremely happy.”
Barnes’ camp was free admission for any youth players that wanted to come out and along with the instruction in football, campers also earned a free pizza lunch through it all.
A number of parents could be heard during registration thanking Barnes and other coaches for the free camp.
“My parents didn’t have much growing up, so I knew they couldn’t afford some of those camps that are $50 or $100,” Barnes said. “I didn’t want to cut off any demographic of people that couldn’t afford to send their kids.
“I know some people can put aside $50 for a camp and others would do it for their kids even if it was their last $50 but I didn’t want anyone to have to do that.”
Joining Barnes in coaching at the camp was recent EHS graduate – and future University of the Cumberlands football player – Maurice Hicks along with former Enterprise and Alabama star linebacker Granison Wagstaff, former Enterprise and Troy running back DJ Hart, former Enterprise player Randy Hart and former Enterprise and Jacksonville State star kicker Cade Stinnett. Barnes’ father Terry Jones – who was an All-American linebacker at Enterprise and a star linebacker at Auburn – also came out to help coach the campers.
“It’s a tremendous blessing to have these guys come out and want to workout with us and give their time for it,” Barnes said.
Along with learning and honing fundamentals of the game, Barnes said that it was as much about helping kids find something they are passionate about.
“For me it’s not as much about football but more so about being passionate about something, even if it’s not football,” Barnes said. “If they’re not passionate about football, maybe it’s basketball or putting their heads in a book to be a lawyer. This is just something to help them feel their way out before high school to find something they’re passionate about.”
Barnes said it was a special feeling being back in “The Hole” again, as well.
“It’s always an amazing feeling being back here,” he said. “I can see all the plays I made out here from the big games or even all the hard summer workouts. It’s the reason I wanted it here. It’s so meaningful to me.”