CAMDEN - Haason Reddick offered the young football campers a chance to dream, to hope, to make the life they want.
Reddick is certainly living his dream after being selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
Now the former Temple University star linebacker wants to help ambitious kids fulfill their potential, for them to live their deam, too.
“It means a lot to me because I'm fortunate enough to be in this position,” Reddick said Saturday morning before joining the Camden Health & Athletic Association (CHAA) run a football skills and drills mini-camp. “I know a lot of kids don't have the proper resources or guidance to get to where they want to go in life or acquire the dream that they want.”
Reddick, who grew up in Camden, landed where he wanted, being chosen with the 13th overall pick in the first round by the Arizona Cardinals in April.
“I feel like God has put me in this position to give back and that's what I am going to do,” said Reddick, who played at Haddon Heights High School. “I am going to be as resourceful as I can for the youth, so they will at least have a chance to be whatever they want to be in life.”
Reddick wore a Cardinals hat and shirt on the turf field at Farnham Park, the home of Camden High where Panthers coach Dwayne Savage has rebuilt The High into a South Jersey power again.
“It helps showcase Camden football,” Savage said about having Reddick speak and instruct at a camp in the city. “And it helps them to realize they can reach their goals, especially with him being chosen a first-round draft pick, that's real important.”
Before the start of drills, Reddick stood in front of the youth campers with an important message, telling the wide-eyed youngsters that first and foremost they must stay in school. He told them they can't reach their goals of playing football without studying and doing well in school.
Reddick followed with telling the campers they must work hard and practice to reach their goals.
Monte Williams, who will be a junior at Cherry Hill West, is following Reddick’s advice on both fronts.
“I just wanted to work out and get better,” said Williams, who started last year for the Lions at quarterback, on why he attended the camp.
When asked what it meant to have Reddick there caring about him and working with him, Williams said, “Everything.”
Williams added, “He gives me and the younger kids some one to look up to. It is something I would want to do if I make it, I would want to be humble and give back.”
CHAA is certainly giving back to Camden. The mission of the non-profit that started in June of 2016 is to foster healthier and stronger communities through youth athletic programs.
The association has partnered with youth sports programs to offer baseball, soccer, football, basketball and softball to over 1,000 children in its inaugural year. Also, the Children's Regional Hospital at Cooper has provided more than 150 free youth athletic physicals since the association began with the $1 million investment by the Cooper Foundation of Cooper University Health Care, the Norcross Foundation and AmeriHealth New Jersey.
And, Reddick is giving back to Camden, too.
“I think this is great for Camden that Haason is here to support all the youth programs,” said Al Dyer, the CHAA Executive Director. “Everyone is here chipping in."
Temple sent about a dozen players to help out with the camp, which consisted of four different age brackets between 5 and 17-years-old.
Dyer reached out to the five youth programs in Camden - Centerville Simbas, Whitman Park Tigers, Camden Raiders, Camden Bulldogs and Staley Park Panthers - and each organization told him they had hoped to send about 50 players.
Players from Camden high school and Woodrow Wilson also helped at the camp, teaching skills and working on drills with the young players.
Also, there were about 15 volunteer helpers from Cooper Hospital.
Susan Bass Levine, the president and CEO of the Cooper Foundation, said it was their goal to keep expanding and touch more young lives.
“CHAA is providing financial support to the leagues to allow them to have more kids participate,” she said. “This is really an exciting time in Camden.”
And, of course, it was an exciting Saturday morning to have a NFL player run a camp in Camden.
“It's very inspiring to see someone make that level in football,” said Jaden Johnson, who will be a sophomore wide receiver and cornerback at Haddon Heights, the alma mater of Reddick.
“It makes you think you can do it.”
Precisely. That is Reddick’s message.