Before this week, Christian Kemp only knew the Camas High School football players by the numbers on their jerseys.
After meeting several of the Papermakers during the Big Guy/Little Guy football camp Wednesday and Thursday, at Cardon Field behind Camas High School, the 12-year-old from Camas can put faces to those numbers. He can also say he caught a football from quarterback Logan Grindy.
“I’ll remember getting together with my friends after school got out and playing some football,” Kemp said.
Kemp and Everett Kuhnel, a 10-year-old from Camas, both dream of wearing the Papermaker red and black on Friday nights. After playing for East County Pop Warner, Kemp plans to try out for the football team at Liberty Middle School. Kuhnel participates in Clark County Youth Football. The big guys helping the little guys is something that CHS head football coach Jon Eagle believes in.
“You become a better player when you have to coach,” he said. “No doubt about it.”
The Papermakers enjoyed their time as mentors.
“The youth camp is a fun thing to do,” said wide receiver Miguel Salamanca. “The kids in the community look up to this team. They’re the future of Camas. It’s good for us to be out there with them, and getting them on the right track.”
Salamanca’s advice for the kids who attended the camp is to make the most of their opportunities in football.
“When you’re younger, you think football is going to last forever,” he said. “Before you know it, it’s senior year and you only have one year left. Looking back at my years, there are times I wished I worked harder. Football is not just about talent, it’s about how much heart you put into the game. Hopefully, these kids take that to heart and continue to work hard.”
Grindy hopes these kids stick with the game.
“As long as they keep working hard, they could be up here on Friday nights before they know it,” he said.
Today, the CHS football players and coaches are heading to camp at Oregon State University. Joining the Papermakers from the Greater St. Helen’s League are Columbia River, Skyview and Union high schools. Eagle said he expects to see at least a dozen high schools from Oregon and Washington.
The CHS football players have a lot to be excited about in 2010. On Sept. 4, the Papermakers open the season against Timberline High School at Qwest Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks. Kick off is at 3 p.m.
“It’s only 73 days until we play at Qwest Field,” Eagle said.
“The blood, sweat and tears we shed during the summer is what brings everybody closer together,” Grindy said.
Grindy and Jeremy Faulkner played for a state baseball championship across the street at Safeco Field. The crowd and ambiance and Qwest Field could be even bigger.
“I just got to play at Safeco, and in a couple of months I get to play at Qwest,” Grindy said. “I feel lucky just to be in that atmosphere. I’ve never played in front of that many people before. It’s going to be exciting.”
On Sept. 17, the Papermakers play their first game at the new Doc Harris Stadium.
“Our first game is at Qwest. After that, we’re not coming home to some old stadium. We’re getting a brand new one,” Salamanca said. “There are going to be a lot of fans cheering us on. It’s going to be a big year for us.”