LAKE CHARLES – McNeese Football has a championship tradition on the football field.
On Saturday morning, the Cowboys were champions in the community when they held a free kids camp, along with Ward 3 Recreation, to more than 100 elementary-aged kids at the Martin Luther King Center in North Lake Charles. The camp, which ran from 9-11:30 a.m., consisted of drills, games, lots of water breaks, food and fun.
“It was good to see our players interact with the kids,” said head coach Lance Guidry who plans to hold the event every year. “Anytime you can give back, I believe that’s what you’re supposed to do in life period. We love everybody in the city.”
“I think it’s awesome,” said Terri Hayden whose sons A’maurie (12 years old) and A’darius (10) were two of the over 100 kids to participate. “It’s really nice to have the McNeese coaches and players out there for the kids. We’ll definitely be going to some games because now my sons know the players.”
Tony Citizen, a McNeese Hall of Fame running back, is the Program Director for Ward 3 and had a big hand in arranging the morning’s events.
“Coach Guidry approached (Executive Director) Kip Texada (a former McNeese all-conference defensive back) about doing something in North Lake Charles for the kids,” said Citizen. “We were able to get the word out through social media, had some help with some coaches in the area to spread the word, and KZWA radio did a great job of promoting it.
“I’m tremendously happy with the turnout. The coaches and players did an outstanding job. The kids really enjoyed it. They were working and getting something out of the camp plus they got an opportunity to meet the coaches and players up front.”
Braylon Weston, a third-grader, was the winner of the third grade group in the 25-yard dash race.
“My favorite part was to compete,” said the 8-year-old. “It was fun to talk to the players.”
His father, Brandon, said this was the first time his son has been able to interact with college football players.
“This was real special,” said Weston. “I’ve known Coach Guidry for a long time. What he’s bringing back to the community, it’s amazing and just what these kids need.”
Cowboys’ senior wide receiver Kent Shelby was all smiles throughout the morning.
“It’s a great thing,” said Shelby. “For me having a younger brother and giving back to him, it’s the same as giving back to these young kids. Some kids don’t have the guidance or a mother or father, or older brother or sister, so to be able to come out here and give back to them, it’s a great feeling.”
Junior quarterback James Tabary had similar feelings.
“It means everything to me,” said Tabary. “I know it means a lot to the young guys too, to see a bunch of McNeese players out here that they look up to. There’s nothing better than to give back to the community.”
And despite having over 100 young kids full of energy running through drills, the attention was locked in when the Cowboys were talking.
“Their eyes lit up when we talked to them,” said Tabary. “What was awesome was how attentive they all were when we were talking. They weren’t looking around or seemed bored. All eyes and attention were on us. They were so excited to see us talk and for us to teach them.”
“This was really the first time Braylon has had a chance to interact with college football players,” said Mr. Weston. “I’m going to start bringing him around more so he can see their work ethic and learn what he needs to do to get where they are.”
“I think the kids really enjoyed it today,” said Guidry. “We don’t get to the north part of Lake Charles too much. We’re always on the south side because that’s where McNeese is and a lot of these kids don’t get to south Lake Charles. It was great to come out here today. I know our coaches and players had a great time.”
The kids were also treated to hamburgers and hot dogs as well as sno-cones and drinks. Each camper also received a t-shirt and a McNeese back sack.
Guidry and Citizens said this is something they would like to do every year.