By Hannah Poling
Former NFL player Antoine Harris wanted to give back to the westside community and he did so by hosting a skills camp for children at Bishop Ready on July 13.
Harris was born and raised on the westside of Columbus. He attended Hiltonia, went to West Mound, and then went to Bishop Ready for high school. After high school, Harris went to the university of Louisville where he went on a scholarship for football but also got a degree in communications. He played professional football with the Tennessee Titans in 2005 and 2006. He played with the Atlanta Falcons from 2007-2009. Finally, played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010 and 2011. He played the position of safety and corner and was also a special teams captain.
Harris began holding his free football skills camp on the westside in 2009 and continued through 2011. However, playing professional football and raising a family elsewhere in the United States, Harris had to cut the camp for a while.
“When I lived in Atlanta, it was hard for me to get back when my kids were younger, so I took a break from having the camp for a while,” said Harris. “Now, my kids are older, and we travel a lot, so I felt like it was time to start doing the camp again.”
More than 100 kids in grades K-8 pre-registered for the camp this year and approximately 40 walk-ins were anticipated.
According to Harris, he wants to continue holding this camp annually. Currently the camp is a one-day event however, Harris wants to see it grow.
“Ideally I would like to do this every single year and I would like to make it into a bigger thing after this year,” Harris said.
Harris said that the purpose of the camp is to give back to his hometown and pass along his football knowledge to kids interested in the sport.
“For me, it is a way to bring the westside together,” said Harris.
In order to make this camp a success, Harris partnered with Jerome Buckner, president of the West Mound Stars. Harris used to play little league along with Buckner for the Stars in the late 80s and early 90s. The two have been friends since.
According to Buckner, giving back to the community has always been something Harris has been passionate about.
“It was just something that he wanted to do. He’s always been someone who wanted to give back,” said Buckner.
This camp was not only intended to teach these young students about football but also about life and paying it forward.
“It means a lot because there is nobody out here on the westside that’s doing it. The west is starving out here, so things like this is very beneficial and hopefully we can continue to do it and support our community,” Buckner said.
Many of the parents of the participants were also impressed with Harris’s commitment to donating his time in order to help the community.
“That’s pretty awesome,” said Donald Cook. “He is a local guy in a local community giving back to everybody in this area and to the kids. So, to donate his time is very generous of him.”
Parents and participants were also excited to participate in a unique camp this summer.
“This is our first time coming so we are just excited for camp. My son’s all about football this year so we are just excited to be here,” said Emily Morgan.