When they returned from their Friday evening scrimmage at North Durham, the Fighting Scots did so filled to the brim with equal parts excitement and unanswered questions.
But at Legion Field the following Saturday morning, Scotland got a chance to set aside the emotions surrounding their August 17th regular season home opener against Seventy First. On this morning, the Fighting Scots enjoyed the company of more than 100 football fans aged 7-12 who weren’t there just to take part in football drills.
They were there to get the chance to see and interact with their local heroes.
“We probably had as much fun, if not more, than the kids did out there today,” said Scotland starting safety Malik Diggs. “It’s not just something that gets them out of the house, it’s an opportunity to give them a goal to reach for if they work hard enough on and off the football field.”
“There’s an excitement that surrounds being a member of the Fighting Scots, and we wanted these kids to feel that excitement,” said Scotland head football coach Richard Bailey. “I teach my football players to be positive role models, and hopefully the many future Fighting Scots here today will remember this event and pay it forward when they get the chance.”
After checking in and receiving their t-shirt, the children who attended the first-annual Scotland football camp ran out to the field and were greeted by Scotland players and coaching staff alike. The Saturday morning event was a mutual collaboration between Bailey, Scotland County Parks and Recreation, and Greg Baines, whose son Bradley starts at left guard for the Scots. Several local businesses aided in the organization of the camp as well.
From hitting bags to tackling drills, each rotating station was manned by a player and coach who worked with kids on their mechanics while also ensuring each child had a smile on their face.
Scotland senior wide receiver Tyron Jones worked with kids on running routes and also reminisced on his earliest playing days. Like many of his fellow Fighting Scots, Jones is a lifelong Laurinburg resident whose dreams of cheering fans and the bright lights of Pate Stadium fueled him as a young football player.
Seeing kids with similar dreams, Jones felt fortunate to be placed in a position where he could serve as further motivation.
“I started playing flag football at 10 years old, and I feel blessed to be where I’m at today,” Jones said. “It feels good to see kids doing what we did at their age and to tell them that they can do it too.”
The motto for the 2012 Fighting Scots’ offensive line is H.O.G.S., and not because of their necessary bulk says junior tackle Triston Strong. The acronym stands for “Honor Our Great Strength,” and it serves as a reminder to Strong and his fellow lineman that they are the pillars for the offenses’ collective success or failure.
Growing up around the game himself, Strong remembers the character and toughness that football brought to his life, and it was exactly the message he wanted to send Saturday morning.
“My discipline, work ethic and desire to constantly improve myself came from football,” Strong said. “Football can help build you for life, and it’s exciting to teach them some of what we’ve learned as players.”
Though it was a football camp by nature, the Fighting Scots’ players and coaches had a larger goal in mind when the kids came together for their final huddle. Once they were seated, kids listened as Bradley Baines delivered a message about football’s secondary importance compared to having a strong belief in God.
“Football is great but it’s not the most important thing in life,” Baines said. “What is important is believing in something bigger than all of us. Everything you do in life should be done to glorify God.”
Following Baines was Paul Lemmond, director of Scotland High School’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and a man who has had a major influence in the lives of countless Fighting Scots. After reciting the University of North Carolina football team’s daily motto (“It’s gonna be a great day. I cannot fail. I can only learn and grow.”), Lemmond discussed the common thread linking together Scotland’s most successful teams and players.
“In about five or six years, I expect to see each one of you sitting at the front of the classroom,” Lemmond said. “Last year’s team said a prayer before each game and strived to be an example for others as students and athletes. You should also set an example for others as well.”
Being an example for others is a role that starting senior linebacker Chris Moss takes very seriously. Athleticism and grades aside, Moss believes that suiting up for the Fighting Scots is an avenue that can be used to steer kids away from the bad influences that have derailed many promising lives in the past.
“This camp is a way for parents to show their kids that there’s something better waiting for them than the streets,” Moss said. “Whether these kids go on to play football or not, hopefully they see that there are other options out there than violence and crime.”