The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 26, 2021 1:00 am

Woodson in town to tout new camp

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Rod Woodson had Powers Hamburgers in the morning and planned to pick up Coney Island in the afternoon.

The NFL Hall of Famer and Fort Wayne native was back in the Summit City on Thursday, officially announcing a football camp he will be holding in July for youth and high school players.

Speaking at the Police Athletic League, where he played youth football in the 1970s, the former Snider star also put out a call for other NFL players from Fort Wayne, such as Jaylon Smith of the Cowboys and Jessie Bates III of the Bengals, to join him at the camp as coaches.

“(The coaches) are going to be ex-NFL players and I’m hoping, Jessie, Jaylon and all you current players and ex-players, I want all the (Fort Wayne NFL) players to come back at the same time in July and be a part of it,” Woodson said. “Our main goal is to get (them) all to come back together at the same time, which we’ve never done, and give back to the kids all at once.”

A youth camp for grades 3 through 8 will be held July 6 and 7 and a high school camp will take place July 8 to 10.

Woodson, 55, previously hosted a camp in Fort Wayne from 1994 to 2007, but the eight-time All-Pro defensive back said this high school camp will be much more in-depth, with players getting a full practice similar to one they would go through if they played college football, complete with a mini-combine, film study and on-field work.

The head of the camp coaching staff will be Woodson’s former defensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders, Chuck Bresnahan. 

The youth camp will be more focused on instilling a positive attitude and teaching kids the basics of football. Woodson hopes that camp will be free, while the high school camp will likely require a fee to ensure the campers are invested in the experience.

The idea for the foundation and the camp grew out of Woodson’s search for his next chapter in early 2018 after a three-year stint on the Raiders’ coaching staff ended – he jokingly thanked Raiders coach Jon Gruden for letting him go and setting him on the journey that culminated in the reinvented camp.

“I was like, ‘Let’s go back to what you do, what you love, grassroots efforts of playing football and teaching,’ ” said Woodson, who played 17 years in the NFL. “Just to come back to Fort Wayne ... It’s good to come home and it’s good to come home with a purpose.”

The camp will be held in several cities across the country in partnership with the NFL’s “Way to Play” initiative. Every other city that will host the camp has an NFL franchise, but Woodson insisted the Indiana satellite be in Fort Wayne.

“I said, ‘I’m not going to go to Indiana and go to Indy,’” Woodson said. “That’s not my hometown. My hometown is right up the road. I gotta do it in the Fort.”

The camp’s location in the Summit City is yet to be determined, but in Woodson’s “dream world” it would be held at Snider. His foundation is also in discussions with Saint Francis and Homestead about using their fields.

For more information about the Hope Through Football camp, contact Willie Burton at or by phone at 260-438-7843.


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