Every year for the past six years, the Dallas Cowboys have held a camp for high school athletes, and every year, it has almost nothing to do with football.
They did play games and crowned a champion, but the purpose of the Dallas Cowboys U camp is to stress the importance of character for kids who face different challenges in life — kids like John Paul II (Corpus Christie, Texas) sophomore Donavan Johnson.
Donavan’s high school coach, former Dallas Cowboy George Teague, says his star receiver has NFL talent. What he lacks is a father figure.
Donavan says his dad has never been in the picture. A couple years ago, his dad sent a letter and wanted to talk. They met at a McDonald’s, spoke for 20 minutes, that’s it. That’s all he’s ever known his dad, and he hasn’t heard from him since.
“It made me angry a lot because I had to realize at a young age that my father wasn’t there,” Donavan said. “You just wanted to ask a question ‘Why’?”
Donavan never got an answer. His mom says, although he’s a good kid, it’s hard to go through life without a dad.
“He will not talk a whole lot about not having his dad around, so I’m just hoping he gets this male role model in his life,” said Lillie Kelly, Donavan’s mom.
Which is why the Cowboys hope, for at least a day, they can be that example for Donavan and the nearly 200 kids just like him at the camp.
“I know it’s gonna change him,” Teague said.
After WFAA cameras were gone, the Cowboys spent time with the kids, getting to know them and encouraging them to grow up to be great men.
For Donavan, this camp will never replace a father, but it is exactly what he needed: a reminder that someone cares.
“It gave me momentum to keep trying and trying over and over again no matter what,” Donavan said.
Proof that you don’t have to be on America’s team to be a part of the family.