Football fundamentals. Teamwork. How to be a champion.
Those are the things Keena Turner and Guy McIntyre learned when they played for the 49ers, and that is what the former Pro Bowlers imparted on to the campers at the Football Camp for the Stars in San Jose last month.
The Football Camp for the Stars is an annual camp for athletes between 15 and 30 years old who have Down syndrome and love football. At the camp, the athletes receive instruction from NFL players along with NFL, college and prep school coaches who teach them the fundamentals of the game they love
Nearly 50 athletes participated in last month's camp and they learned a variety of football skills and techniques. They practiced playing every position including quarterback, running back and wide receiver, they worked on their agility and speed, and the athletes also got some insight into the strategy of the game as well.
"Their whole lives, a lot of these athletes have been what they can't do and that is unfortunate," said Jared Muela, 49ers youth football coordinator. "This camp opens the door to people with Down syndrome and gives them opportunity to play a sport that they love."
The Football Camp for the Stars, held at Valley Christian High School, is now in its fourth year and the 49ers have helped every year since its inception. Several current and former players and coaches including Dana Stubblefield, Ronnie Lott, Rhett Hall, Jim Tomsula, Steve Mariucci, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary have all coached in the past and they all enjoyed the experience.
This year, Turner and McIntyre felt the same way.
"It was just a fun event to encourage the campers and give them an opportunity to have the same experiences that other kids have at camp," McIntyre said. "It was fun to see their enthusiasm and how much fun they were having."
Turner and McIntyre spoke to the group about their experiences in the NFL and the importance of teamwork before leading a tackling drill and playing a little bit of defense as the athletes tried to rush for touchdowns. Once the campers scored on the former 49ers, Turner and McIntyre showed them how to celebrate.
"We had fun showing them a couple of touchdown dances," said McIntyre, the former offensive guard who scored two touchdowns in his career 13-year NFL. "Since I was barely ever in the end zone, I didn't know what to do when I got there. I just got up and spiked the ball and that was about it. Now these athletes will know what to do when they score."
With the 49ers youth football camp beginning this week, Muela implemented many of the same techniques into the team's camp that were so successful at the Football Camp for the Stars. At the 49ers three-day camp, which began Monday, nearly 150 boys and girls received the opportunity to play every position, learn some football strategy and interact with some 49ers players.
However, the biggest thing Muela took away from the Football Camp for the Stars was the excitement in the atmosphere.
"The enthusiasm at the Football Camp for the Stars was off the charts, and that is something we brought to our camp as well," Muela said. "Their coaches set the tempo and they radiated enthusiasm and energy. That rubs off on the athletes and they have a much better camp experience because of it.
"We made sure our coaches bring that same level of excitement."