Todd Wright wants his players to connect with the program’s history, and there is no better place to start.
Prior to becoming a three-time NFL Pro Bowl selection with the Chicago Bears and long before he was one of the nation’s top linemen at Oklahoma, Tommie Harris developed into a standout at Ellison.
So, when the Eagles head coach decided to reach out to former players, it began with Harris.
But Wright is not satisfied to stop there.
“Having Tommie back involved with our program is good for Killeen,” he said, “and it is really good for Ellison.
“But we want to grow our alumni connections even more, because it is always important to teach the history and tradition of your program. These kids need to know that a person just like them went on to become successful.”
Approximately 50 campers learned the lesson firsthand Monday during the inaugural Tommie Harris Ellison Eagle Football Camp, when Harris attended and gave a motivational speech.
Although the message of his journey to the NFL was well received, Wright does not want to limit any possibilities.
“In the future,” he said, “we want to have other alumni out to tell their stories. We want the kids to see people who played for us that went on to become a doctor or play sports professionally or be a preacher in town.
“We want them to see all the different avenues available.”
Although Wright is infusing specific messages into the three-day event that concluded Wednesday, the vehicle is football.
Campers ranging from incoming first- through ninth-graders spend four hours each day taking part in drills, learning techniques, receiving instruction and reviewing fundamental skills from members of Ellison’s coaching staff.
Additionally, the camp is beneficial by acclimating players to the heat before middle school and high school practices begin, but it also has another purpose.
“Every kid plays every position,” Wright said. “Sometimes, someone who is big is just automatically told that they’re a lineman.
“All of our kids learn how to throw and how to catch, because if you just blindly assign kids positions, then you might be missing out on something.”
Despite being dedicated to teaching fundamentals and reconnecting the program’s alumni with the community’s youth, Wright believes a key component to a successful camp is ensuring participants enjoy themselves.
“We have to balance things,” he said, “because when you are dealing with the heat, if the kids aren’t having fun, they won’t come back.”