COPPERAS COVE — Daniel Luna knew what to expect, but he never predicted what would happen.
Having an older son participate in Copperas Cove’s long-running NCAA Football Camp years earlier, Luna was aware of everything his youngest son, Christian, who is entering first grade, would experience.
Luna knew his son would learn valuable fundamental skills, beginning construction on a foundation capable of supporting forthcoming football knowledge. He understood his future Bulldawg would get personal interaction with the team’s coaching staff, and bond with fellow aspiring players.
Most importantly, Luna knew it would be fun. He just did not anticipate Christian would feel the same way.
“He loves it,” Luna said. “I was actually pretty shocked because he is kind of a shy kid.
“We thought he would hang on to our leg, but he just went into the gym, looked at us and waved at us. That was shocking, but it tells you that he knows from watching his older brother go through this camp that it is a positive experience.”
With a history stretching back nearly 20 years, the camp has served as the starting point for numerous standout Bulldawgs, including players who went on to excel collegiately and professionally, making it especially appealing to children, according to camp director Shay Adams.
“They are sitting in the same shoes, wearing the same T-shirt, going through the same camp that Robert Griffin III went through,” he said. “It’s the same one Charles Tillman went through and Josh Boyce went through and Brelan Chancellor went through. The kids today are doing the same things those guys did, and somewhere out there on this football field there are stars. There are NFL players out there, but the biggest thing is there are Bulldawg football players out there, and the sky is the limit.”
Held at S.C. Lee Junior High School for the seventh consecutive year, the four-day camp reserved for incoming first- through sixth-graders began Monday, consisting of various activities, drills, games and competitions intended to teach players the sport’s basic skills.
Although Adams, who has served as camp director for a decade, places a high priority on simply making the camp fun for kids, football is serious business in Copperas Cove, and he admits this is an opportunity to begin grooming the program’s upcoming classes.
“This is not a babysitting camp,” he said. “We are teaching football. We are teaching the same skills that we teach all the way through — from junior high to freshmen to junior varsity to varsity. It is all the same fundamentals because football is football.
“The biggest thing is that we are going to let them learn Bulldawg football.”
The camp’s appeal stretches beyond city limits.
Approximately 110 children are enrolled in this year’s camp with participants coming from Lampasas, Gatesville and even Burnet, which is 40 miles away.
In early August, Copperas Cove will host its annual NFL Football Camp for incoming seventh- through ninth-graders. While the intensity increases slightly, in the end, the knowledge being imparted is the same, according to Adams, who has coached at Copperas Cove for 14 years.
“It is at a different pace and a different tempo, and we work into our plays — our offensive and defensive schemes,” he said. “But they are still working on the fundamentals. The difference between a good team and a great team is very, very small. It is the fundamentals, so the more you teach and preach technique, the better they’ll be.”
Speaking from first-hand experience, Luna agrees, but also believes the camp teaches more than just the basics.
“It is a really good program,” he said. “When my older son went through the program, every time after he came he had more skills, but really he had more love for football.”