Football

Campers score big at Pierre Thomas camp

2014-06-24T19:00:00Z 2014-06-25T19:14:10Z Campers score big at Pierre Thomas campMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
June 24, 2014 7:00 pm  • 

LANSING | Despite the rain pelting him and the campers, Pierre Thomas stood outside of T.F. South's football stadium Tuesday afternoon and posed for pictures and signed autographs for campers.

They had just finished the fourth annual Pierre Thomas Skills Camp, a free camp sponsored by ICAN Foundation, powered by Thomas.

The New Orleans Saints running back, T.F. South and University of Illinois grad, didn't might getting a few drops on him.

"What's your name? Smile now?" Thomas said as he signed and posed. "Make sure everyone gets in (the picture)."

A few hours earlier, the skies also opened up, but amazingly stopped just before the 1 p.m. start of the camp. The next two hours were dry as campers did drills, ran plays and got to interact with Thomas, T.F. South football coach Tom Padjen, the Rebels coaching staff and players.

Connor Ryan, 13, from St. John, said he wanted to reintroduce himself to Thomas. He had met the Saints back as a little boy and made another impression by intercepting a pass thrown by Thomas.

"I think that awesome," Ryan said of his defensive play. "I just kind of read the play and was right there."

Ryan attends Clark Middle School. He said his babysitter's (Danielle Gabe) brother (Ryan Gabe) was a friend of Thomas.

"I was real little, but I remember talking to him and he was a real nice guy," Ryan said. "It was just great that we were able to come here and have a camp with an NFL star."

Thomas said he did remember Ryan some.

"I remember a bunch of little kids over at Ryan's and once went to (Connor Ryan's) house," Thomas said.

"He got a nice pick on me."

Thomas led the Rebels to the 2002 Class 6A semifinals and his foundation is more about getting kids moving than football, though the sport is used as a reason to get kids exercising.

"Ride a bike, play football, do something, but move," Thomas said. "Too many kids are sedentary and we want to get them into some kind of physical activity. Even (Tuesday), you don't have to be a football player to be here. Just get out and run, do some drills and have a good time. It's better than just sitting at home."

The ICAN Foundation has stated one of its goals is to battle childhood obesity, which can lead to diabetes and other complications such as heart disease.

"We want to stress the importance of making good food choices, eating healthy and exercising," Thomas said.

What also stood out was Thomas donating his time to almost 100 campers.

Lansing resident Duane Calhoun watched his 9-year-old son D.J. take part in the camp and had nothing but praise for Thomas and the T.F. South staff.

"He is giving back to the community he crew up in," the elder Calhoun said. "Some superstars, athletes, they kind of get too caught up in who they are, but Pierre Thomas came back. He is a role model for kids."

D.j. Calhoun said he loved the camp and learned more than football.

"We learned you have to have good grades, too," Calhoun said. "It is not just about football. School is important, too."

As far as getting the opportunity to work with an NFL star?

"Just great. We all loved it," D.J. Calhoun said.

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