Rain pouring from the skies and an early wake-up call didn't quell the enthusiasm of a room full of 150 high-school football players gathered at Hales Franciscan High School on Saturday. Though football season is months away, they were there to practice the game they loved and get inspired by Chicago Bears Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs.
In his third year offering the free camp to Chicago high schoolers, Briggs said he wanted to make a camp available to kids regardless of their backgrounds.
"It's giving back to football, and giving kids that art that we have mastered. Chicago is a very important place to me. It's been home for the last 10 years, and seeing the kids from the south side. It teaches you basic fundamentals, and we run through skill drills and give them a chance to compete. We emphasize that it's free. For a lot of these kids might not be able to afford some of those expensive football camps. They can get the same type of teaching for a very affordable price," Briggs told NBC Chicago.
Most of the day was filled with football drills, but they started the day by hearing from Briggs about the importance of schooling and and hard work. Before they broke to warm-up, Briggs brought the entire group of young men in to a huddle and had them yell, "HARD WORK."
Chris Covington, a student at Al Raby High School on Chicago's West Side, won tickets to a Bears game at last year's camp. But the chance to go to another Bears game was not on his mind.
"I really didn't care about the tickets. I just wanted to come out and play football because it's what I like to do. It's not about tickets. Tickets and all that doesn't matter. It's about playing the game."
Ken Rogers, the coach at North Lawndale High School, appreciates Briggs spending so much time with the young men.
"He motivates the kids to work hard. He's out there with them. He shows that he's a pro, and that he's a player. He pushes the kids, talks to the kids, always making sure they're out there trying to do their best," Rogers said.