Holding his first local football camp in four years on Saturday at Southwest Florida Christian Academy, Oakland Raiders safety and Cape Coral graduate Nate Allen found comfort in a familiar role.
“OK, let’s do some DB drills,” Allen said just moments after the start of his McGregor Baptist Church Football Camp, which partnered with NFL PLAY 60 and was free to the public.
Wearing an Oakland Raiders bucket hat, Allen jogged over to his defensive back station, where he instructed a handful of children, ages 5 through 10, through a series of repetitions that required backpedaling, running and catching a blue football.
“It’s awesome. And working with kids this age, it’s a humbling experience,” said Allen, a six-year NFL player who held his first youth football camp four years ago at Cape Coral High while still with the Philadelphia Eagles. “Some of them were asking me: What team do you play for? Who am I? So it’s just awesome, because they have such a pure love for the sport.”
Allen, 28, worked with his agent to host the tournament. The majority of the operations were covered by a NFL60 grant, SFCA football coach Mike Marciano said, while other costs Allen handled.
The Raiders safety re-signed with the team in February on a restructured deal following their release of him after the season. Allen played five games with Oakland in 2015, intercepting one pass, defending two others and compiling 14 tackles.
Nearly 200 children were on hand for the morning portion of Saturday’s camp, which was also aided by the help of McGregor Baptist Church and its pastor Arthur Keeley, while another 200 middle school athletes were on hand during the afternoon camp.
Allen, who had his first child in October, said he hoped to make the camp an annual event. On Saturday, he was in his element as he coached, laughed and joked with local youth. He said it brought him back to his own childhood.
Check out this 7-year-old having fun at the McGregor Baptist football camp this morning. pic.twitter.com/nkHOfyWeiZ— Cory Mull (@ByCoryMull) July 16, 2016
“When I sit here and look at them, it reminds me when I was their age,” said Allen, whose wife, Courtney, and parents Darlene and Jackie were also on hand. “It was the pure love of football. It wasn’t the business side of it like it is in the NFL. They’re here visualizing that they’re Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newtown, Marshawn Lynch, and that’s awesome that they can get out here and do that.”
Over 20 volunteers, many of them local high school football players, joined to run the camp’s 15 personal stations across the King’s football field.
Marciano said Allen’s camp, which was free to the public, was a great opportunity to give back to the community.
“As twisted as our world is getting, we thought this would be a great time to reach out to the community,” Marciano said. “We thought a charge might run some people off, so we wanted to hold a free camp, and any costs we incurred Nate was willing to cover.”
Cape Coral coach Larry Gary, heading into his 38th year teaching and coaching in the Lee County School district, was also on hand to help. While Gary arrived at Cape Coral the year after Allen left for the University of South Florida, he maintains a close relationship his family.
“Nate is a special breed. He’s very humble,” Gary said. “He never set himself at the top and said I’m this guy, I’m the guy. Nate has always had a level head when it comes to people.”
Following the defensive back drill, Allen huddled his group of children together and told them to have fun and continue to respect others. Over the course of the camp, Allen also wanted to instill his faith and values to those in attendance.
His favorite moment was working with the kids at his defensive backs station.
“Just running my DB drill right over there and working with the kids and seeing all their faces and listening to what they say and doing all the dances,” he said.