Over the past five days, 400 boys from throughout the GLOW region were in Elba to do something that doesn't happen much in June -- practice football.
But that's not all the camp was about. The players also were given talks on a few life lessons, such as integrity, good grades and time management.
The camp is jointly sponsored by the NFL and the National Guard and organized by local coaches.
"The NFL and National Guard have gone off chart (on funding the camp)," said Dan Geiger, now an assistant coach with Elba/Byron-Bergen. "No other professional sports program is that willing to put out this kind of money to really go after what they claim is their goal. You know, they talk about character, well they put their money where their mouth is and provide a camp like this."
The players don't need to spend a cent on the camp and the sponsors provide jerseys and workbooks that serve as a time-management tool (mainly, it's a calendar) along with advice on everything from homework tips to exam advice, an NCAA eligibility guide plus action shots of NFL players.
"There’s a lot of great football going on here, a lot of great football learning, but on top of that, there’s a lot of every night the kids learn about character and integrity," Geiger said.
At 400 participants, the local camp is almost certainly the best attended in New York and perhaps the United States.
The week began Sunday night with a some guest speakers, both motivational and inspirational, and players said they found the talks meaningful.
"I personally like the guest speakers," said Nate Jonathan, a senior defensive end from Alexander. "I think it’s cool – a little motivational stuff."
Alton Rupp, a junior fullback and outside linebacker from Alexander, said one inspirational speaker was especially touching.
"Recently my mom passed away," Rupp said. "It kind of helped me because yesterday we talked a little about faith. I believe that my mom is still with me, so it kind of helps out a little bit. I’m doing this right now to help get better for the season and just help make my faith for the season a little bit better."
Austin Schroeder, a senior from Oakfield-Alabama, focused most on the football aspect of the camp.
"It's awesome how many kids are here and it’s set up really cool," Schroeder said. "I get to practice fundamentals of the line that I need to and it's nice to be able to hit before the season."
Asked how much he loved football, Schroeder said, "It's the only sport I play, so that sums it up, I guess."
The camp is one of about 180 throughout the nation and Elba/Byron-Bergen Head Coach Mike Cintorino said teams participating this year came not only from his school, but Batavia, Alexander, Alabama-Oakfield, Holley, Brockport, Albion and Barker/Roy-Hart (Gasport).
Area college football coaches Rocco Salomone, of Buffalo State, and Buddy Sims, of St. John Fisher, also helped out with the camp, Cintorino said.
"It gives them a chance to come out and talk to the kids and tell them what they’re looking for, not just as an athlete but also for students," Cintorino said. "(They tell them) the fact that you’ve got to be a good kid and have to do well in the academics to get into the school."
Geiger said the camp, which he started promoting a few years when was coaching the Batavia Blue Devils, is so popular because so many coaches in the area support and believe in the lessons it aims to teach the boys.
Cintorino said he hopes it's those life lessons that have the most impact on the players.
"We talk about how there’s more to football than just the game," Cintorino said. "There’s a lot of life lessons to be learned -- teamwork, trust, relationships, integrity, honesty, character -- all of those things, so I hope that first and foremost they get to take that way from it."