The final 49ers Player of the Week Award of the 2016 season goes to the outstanding athletes from the 2016 Football Camp for the Stars.
Football Camp for the Stars is held each summer at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, CA. This unique football camp was established especially for athletes with Down Syndrome who love and enjoy playing the game of football. The camp has grown from a camp of eleven into a nationally recognized annual event and has recruited athletes of all ages that travel from as far as Pennsylvania to attend camp each summer.
Athletes of all ages and skill levels are represented at camp. Whether one is an established football player who plays on an organized team, or one is new to football and simply looking for a chance to play the game, camp is designed to accommodate athletes of all skill levels. This is what makes Football Camp for the Stars as special as it is. Regardless of age, background, or hometown, these brilliant young men unite each summer brought together by one thing – their love for football.
Witnessing the relationship between the camper and their buddy develop over the course of camp is one of the most special things to witness during these two days. The campers look up to the Valley Christian players as role models. When they make a good play or catch a nice ball, the first thing they do is look over at their buddy to see their reaction. The Valley Christian players are phenomenal mentors for their buddy both on and off the field, but both sides benefit equally. As eager as the camp participants are for camp each year, the high school team looks forward to it just as feverishly. The bond they form over the two days is extraordinary and the cherished friendships carry on long after camp concludes.
These inspiring young men practice and compete for two straight days all in preparation for the 'big game' at the end of camp. Day two culminates with a final scrimmage where all the campers have a chance to show off all they learned and put their skills to the test. The competition is fierce, and you can feel the energy all the way from the top of the bleachers. It all comes down to this. It is more than a scrimmage – this is for a year's worth of bragging rights.
Over the course of the two-day camp, the athletes go through a variety of football drills led by 49ers players, coaches and front office staff, high school coaches, NFL alumni and college coaches where they are taught all the fundamentals at each position. Practice is true to form, covering all phases of the game and providing all the components of an authentic football camp.
Throughout camp the young men work alongside a 'buddy' – a Valley Christian High School Varsity football player. The high school player and camper are paired up throughout the entirety of camp. The sincere interest and support the Valley Christian team shows towards the campers is as genuine as it comes, and so is the bond and friendship they form.
The Football Camp for the Stars athletes display all the characteristics that the San Francisco 49ers Players of the Week should embody and do so with the utmost integrity. Their love for the game of football is undeniable. The energy and passion they bring to camp each day is unmatchable. The competitive nature is strong, yet they display exceptional sportsmanship through it all. The comradery the athletes form over the course of camp not only with one another, but with the coaches, buddies, cheerleaders, and everyone involved with the camp is possibly the most inspiring of all. They are the finest teammates and Football Camp for the Stars is the ultimate team.