July 23, 2015

Despite the sticky heat hanging over the area this week, locals might hear the delighted squeals of youngsters when they are driving near Magna Vista High School in the evenings.

For the second year, former Magna Vista and current Ferrum College quarterback Harvey Taylor is hosting a football camp for area children, and he said he is having a blast doing it.

“Last year was fun,” Taylor said. “I enjoyed it and decided to do it again after we had so many kids come out last year. In the future I want to continue to do the same thing. It’s fun to give back to the kids and see them grow and possibly become the next superstar in the area.”

With boys and girls from ages 5-14 running around ‘The Hole,’ the camp gives children a chance to let loose and be around their classmates before school starts.

Magna Vista head coach Joe Favero, who helps Taylor organize the camp, said that is the highlight for participants.

“It’s great for them, just getting out and playing, running around, doing some drills. The youngest group loved knocking over the pop-up tackle dummy,” Favero said. “I think our participation is up a lot compared to last year. We’ve got more help this year too and it’s great to see these guys coming back helping these kids be better football players and people.”

After successful sessions on Monday and Wednesday night, the camp will conclude tonight from 6-8 p.m. at Magna Vista. Taylor said that all interested in participating are invited, whether they attended the first two days or not.

“The last day is always fun, we try to teach them as much as we can. We’re going to have a cookout, as well,” Taylor said. “That cookout is my way of giving back not just to the kids but to all the people who came out and helped make this a successful camp.”

Taylor, who was a member of the CHILL Youth Task Force while at Magna Vista, has worked with CHILL Director Katie Connelly to make the camp about life choices as well as football skills, something Favero said he admired greatly.

“They talk to the kids about some of the choices you make and the friends you make. Those influence your life,” Favero said. “So, it’s a matter of it being a positive influence, not a negative one. I think it’s great to see Harvey come back and be the leader of this whole thing, he has been a big influence and is the force behind the camp.”

Taylor said that being a positive role model starts with a good foundation, something Taylor said Favero helped build for him both on and off the field.

“He (Favero) pushed me,” Taylor said. “There were times where it was heated, but that’s part of being in a coach-student athlete relationship. They are hard on you because they want to see you become the best you can possibly be. That’s what he wanted to see from me and he was a big part of shaping the person I am today.”

Now it is Taylor having that impact.

“We want to try to help them (the campers) stay away from drugs,” Taylor continued. “There are lots of athletes that have come from Martinsville and Henry County that could have been, but they weren’t because they got in the wrong crowd and started doing the wrong things. We tell the kids about our bad experiences too so that maybe it will open their eyes and, hopefully, keep them from making the same mistakes.”

Although Taylor and Favero are at the forefront of the camp, many local athletes who have gone on to play in college come back to help with the camp.

“Giving back that’s something we talk to all those kids about,” Favero said. “They all have had a positive experience through football. Most of them have gone on to play college football and the game helped them in life. So, you always hope to see these guys come back and be positive role models. They are guys that got good grades and talk about that with the kids, not just football.”

Taylor echoed his former coach’s thoughts.

“Going through high school, in my freshman year I struggled,” Taylor recalled. “But, as the years went on I got better and better in the classroom. That’s what I want the kids to understand, the better you do in the classroom the more (scholarship) money you are going to get to help you go to school. It’s not just football that’s helping me it’s also the good grades and hard work in the classroom.”

Taylor concluded by saying he hopes to hold the camp for many years into the future, adding he hopes to move it to different locations such as other high schools or the Smith River Sports Complex to make the camp more accessible to more children.

“They (the campers) enjoyed watching us play,” Taylor said. “Now, it’s going to be us enjoying coming back to watch them play.”