Former New York Giants player Rodney Hampton didn’t end his involvement in football after his NFL career ended. He started Hamp’s Camp, a program that offers a free football camp to young people and teaches self esteem, responsibility and discipline. Hampton told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he enjoys giving back to kids and locally conducts the program — started in his hometown of Houston, Texas — in Newark and Paterson.
Hampton said when he was young, he had influential coaches who helped him not only in sports, but in life. “They taught me three things — believe in myself, work hard and be disciplined,” he said. After he made the pros, he said he wanted to give back to kids and offer them the same opportunity he had as a child. So he started Hamp’s Camp.
Hampton said he started doing camps at his high school in Houston after he made it as an NFL player. In 2002 he said he began an after school program for children in third through fifth grades and continued doing football camps in the summer. For the past 10 years, the former Giant has been conducting camps in Newark. This year he began the program in Paterson, where he said 150 kids came.
The camps are free for participants, which Hampton said is possible because former NFL players volunteer their time to help out.
While the kids learn about football, Hampton said there’s more going on. “It’s fundamental football, but I always say the fundamentals of life,” he said.
Believing in yourself is the first message Hampton gives to participants. “The parents believe, the teachers, the coaches, but if you don’t believe in yourself, you make it hard for everybody. So that’s the first thing I tell kids. Believe in yourself. The second thing — you have to work hard because someone is always trying to take your job,” he said. “And the last but not least, very important, you have to be disciplined. If you’re not disciplined, no matter how much you believe in yourself, no matter how hard you work, if you’re not disciplined, everything goes down the ladder.”
Most of the camp participants come from the inner cities and can’t afford to attend traditional camps which can cost hundreds of dollars. Hampton said the goal is to teach them the fundamentals of football and let them know if they work hard, good things can happen.
Having the camps in different cities hasn’t been difficult for Hampton. “I do it in pretty much the cities that I played in. I’m from Houston. I do it at my high school. I went to college at the University of Georgia; I do a couple camps there. And Newark, NJ, this feels like home. The love that I get from the fans and people want to help out so it’s simple.”