The smiles, they were plentiful.
The excitement, it was hard to describe.
And the lessons learned, they were invaluable.
For the 300 kids attending the Hyundai Youth Football Camp at Cool Springs Sports Complex, Saturday was more than they could have asked for.
Jesse James and Ryan Shazier were the camp’s instructors, taking part in two sessions for kids 7-13, providing on-field football tips, as well as words of encouragement and advice.
“It’s great to be able to be out here,” said James. “I am excited to be out here showing the kids a little something. It’s always fun to be able to work in the community and help the future of the Pittsburgh area.
“They have a great time and leave with a smile on their face. It’s always a great experience.”
Shazier wanted to get involved with the camp because as a kid he never had the opportunity to attend a football camp conducted by an NFL player, and promised himself he would give back if ever given the opportunity.
“Kids always look up to us, want to learn from us,” said Shazier. “It’s great to give back to the generation that is coming up next. When I was younger I would have loved to have gone to a football camp like this and learned from players I looked up to.”
Shazier is still going through the rehab process from his spinal stabilization surgery, and over the past few months has become more and more involved in the community as his comfort level has grown. For him, it’s the opportunity to give back to those who have given so much to him.
“Pittsburgh has supported me tremendously,” said Shazier. “From what I am going through now, and even before I got hurt, everybody in Pittsburgh has been so great and amazing. I can’t thank them enough. They made this home for me and I am thankful for everything they do. The only thing I can do is give back.”
It’s also healing for Shazier. Being out on the field, teaching the next generation of football players what he has learned from the game, is therapeutic.
“I feel like it helps me with the rehab process,” said Shazier. “It reminds me of how everyday people get along in life. It allows me to get out and feel more like myself. I always have a good time when I am out with people doing things like this.
“It’s a good sign showing everybody I am feeling a lot better. I am just thankful for everything. It’s a process, but I want to continue to push through it. It’s a good sign for me, because at first I wasn’t doing as much, going out in the community as much. The more I am getting out there, the more comfortable I am feeling around people. It’s all positive and this camp, it really helped me and hopefully the kids.”