By Chelsea Wiggs
JU Communications Major
The road to becoming a professional football player requires mental agility as well as physical muscle, just as becoming a man requires inner fortitude and outer strength.
Forty local high school boys received lessons in both areas recently with the help of NFL coach Daron Roberts and his 4th and 1 football camp.
Roberts, a Harvard law graduate and defensive quality control coach for the Cleveland Browns, founded 4th and 1 in 2010 as a no-cost camp for at-risk student athletes to receive football training as well as intensive SAT/ACT classes and workshops on college admissions, business and life skills.
Admission to the camp is competitive, but is not based on an individual’s ability to punt, pass or kick.
“We look at an assortment of criteria, including GPA, character and writing ability,” Roberts said. “Athletic talent does not figure into the equation. We are striving to grow men, not football players.”
4th and 1 originated in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, near Roberts’ hometown, and has grown to include camps in East Lansing, Mich., and, for the first time in Florida, this year in Jacksonville.
“We received an inquiry from the Jaguars Foundation, and after extensive talks, we determined that Jacksonville would be an incredible site for our expansion into Florida,” Roberts said.
Jacksonville University stepped in to host the camp, providing a place for 4th and 1 athletes June 16-21 to sleep, study and sweat during their time away from home. A typical day included a 5:30 a.m. wake-up followed by a mile run, a shower and breakfast -- all before 8 a.m. The remainder of their day consisted of a yoga session, football training, SAT practice classes and various workshops, and ended with nightly bed checks. By 10 p.m., students were in their rooms, exhausted yet eager for the following day.
“My original idea was to provide a core set of workshops that include SAT prep, resume writing, dinner etiquette and learning the basics of proper attire,” Roberts said. “From that original concept, the curriculum grew to include writing clinics, internet etiquette and interviewing skills. We want to expose our young men to a robust set of stimuli to stretch their minds as much as possible in a six-day period.”
In addition to the daily regimen, camp included a personal welcome from JU President Tim Cost, a visit to the Jacksonville Jaguars practice facility and a football banquet on the last day of camp for the young men of 4th and 1 and two members of their family or friends. The banquet served as an opportunity for the campers to reflect on a week of mental, physical and spiritual growth and share their experiences with loved ones.
Roberts and the 4th and 1 organization are able to offer this unique opportunity at no cost through the help of sponsors from each of the current participating cities. The SAT classes, workshops and athletic training are taught by professionals and experts who volunteer their time in order to make a difference in the lives of the young men.
Roberts and his team at 4th and 1 are pleased with how far the organization has come since 2010, as well as the amount of campers who return to get involved with the organization that helped them develop as both athletes and as men.
“After four years of operation, we are starting to build a network of alumni returning to our camps and volunteering as instructors and coaches,” Roberts said. “In the long term, we expect our alumni to provide shadowing experiences in their respective professions for young campers. 4th and 1 is a family, and we enjoy watching our offspring return to the camp and donate their time and energy.”