Duke Thomas feels Central Texas is lucky.
The former Copperas Cove standout was one of 14 area football players who reached the professional level to serve as instructors at Saturday’s eighth annual Accumulative Advantage Foundation “Kid’s Advantage” CenTex Pro Football Camp & Combine and Cheer Camp at Killeen’s Leo Buckley Stadium.
The free event hosted hundreds of 8- to 17-year-olds with each learning skills and life lessons from Thomas, who graduated from Copperas Cove in 2011 before going on to play for the Texas Longhorns and currently the Dallas Cowboys, and others.
The environment creates an opportunity to give local kids a unique, personal experience with the hometown heroes, and Thomas finds it inspirational.
“We are very fortunate to have so many people who want to do this,” he said. “A lot of places might have the people, but they don’t have a platform like this. They just don’t offer anything to give back to the community.
“It’s just great that we can do this for Killeen, and I hope to do something similar for Copperas Cove in the future.”
The camp lasted approximately three hours with kids receiving individual instruction related to their positions from former area players, including Roy Miller, Juaquin Iglesias, Tommie Harris, Brandon Joiner, Jerrell Freeman and Dominique Zeigler among others.
Additionally, the kids played games, worked on skills, received awards and collected autographs, while parents were invited to a medical seminar on important topics for young athletes, such as concussions, asthma, injury prevention and heart health.
No aspect of the camp is more important than the one-on-one interaction between players and kids, according to Thomas.
“This is about more than just lessons in football,” he said. “We want to let them all know there are lots of things they can do outside the game of football to be successful.
“We let them know they have to do good in school to ever get where we are not. We’re trying to educated them and give them techniques.”
Thomas has been a part of the last three camps and seen the event progressively swell larger.
“It has been growing every year,” he said. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Even with the rain we had before the camp started, kids still showed up.
“That’s a testament to all the work that goes into this.”