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Young at heart
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Trying to teach student-athletes is a challenge for anyone, in the classroom or on the football field.

Apparently, someone didn't tell Bobby Maddox.

Maddox is currently a teacher at Project Adventure, working with the youth at-risk program, and has worked with kids for many years.

But sometimes he is approached by troubled youngsters who seek more structure in their lives. Not only that, but someone who has lived it.

"That's what has driven me to give back," says Maddox.

So, Maddox created a mentoring program for kids called Alumni for Youth.

The event is a youth football camp, consisting of different sessions held in the afternoons throughout the summer months of June and July.

"A lot of people always say our youth today don't have this or don't have that," says Maddox, "but my biggest thing is what are you going to do about it? We wanted to take it upon ourselves to do our part and give a little back to the community."

The program encourages former Newton athletes to put their services and expertise toward benefiting the younger generation in Covington.

Maddox, a 1987 graduate of Newton High School, was a standout football player for the Rams. He continued playing football at Fort Valley State University, where he was an inside linebacker. After graduating and returning to Newton County, he was an Eastside High School assistant coach before working for Project Adventure.

Another Newton alumnus who helps Maddox with the camp is retired NFL cornerback Dale Carter, who played professional football for 13 seasons.

In fact, Maddox and Carter were each Class AAAA first-team all-state football stars for the Rams.

"It's been in our blood for so long," smiles Carter. "Since I'm retired, I can't play (anymore); my body is too sore. So, for me personally I go out here and try to live through these kids."

After graduating from Newton in '88, Carter played football at the University of Tennessee and was named first- team All-America as a senior. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in '92 and earned Rookie of the Year honors.

Carter also played for the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens.

"It's been real good," says Carter of the youth camp participation, "and it's been a big turnout for us. I'm having fun with it; I'm just happy to do it."

However, it wasn't just limited to the youth of Covington. Participants traveled from all over Georgia for this special cause, including several first timers who had never played football before.

"I'm very pleased with the turnout," says Carter, "but I'm greedy - I want to have all the kids because I can teach them so much. I'm not just another person (who) only played football in high school; I've been through all the levels you can go through, and I know what it takes to get there."

This is the second year Maddox and Carter have hosted the camp, but the first time it has been at the Cousins Middle School football field. (Last year it was held behind Porterdale Elementary on the playground.)

But the former Newton football standouts were not the only ones involved with the camp. Approximately 15 volunteers helped Maddox and Carter run the event.

"A lot of (people) have been coming out and volunteering their time," says Maddox, "and with their job schedules, I can only take my hat off to them; I appreciate (all) of their help."

Without their help, it would have been impossible to host the camp.

"We'd also like to thank the Newton County School System for being supportive," says Maddox, "as well as the Cousins Middle School staff and all the parents."

In addition, Maddox is appreciative of help received by the Newton County Recreation Commission.

"The Newton Recreation Department has been very supportive of this," acknowledges Maddox, "and (director) Tommy Hailey and (assistant director) Anthony Avery have been very helpful."

The football camp began in June, with each session focusing on different fundamentals.

On Thursday - the final day of camp - sessions focused on tying in conditioning with agility, as well as basic fundamentals such as blocking, tackling and proper footwork. More importantly, Maddox and company wanted to make sure the campers worked hard and didn't give up.

"The main reason why the sessions are spread out is so that it won't tire out the parents," says Maddox. "We've been getting a lot of support from the community."

There were nearly 75 young athletes on hand during the final day. After a flag football scrimmage - which gave instructors the opportunity to ensure the athletes were still using the fundamentals they learned - camp T-shirts and awards were presented.

Based on its success, Carter vows the camp will continue as long as he lives in Covington.

"It's amazing what these kids can learn and pick up; it's one of my dreams and I'm living it," beams Carter.

Both Maddox and Carter agree the hardest part of the camp is getting the kids to understand the purpose of why they are doing a specific task on the field.

"But if you can work together as a group you can accomplish anything," says Carter, "and that's what I'm trying to get these kids to learn at this age," adds Carter.

But he didn't have to help with this particular event; it's not an NFL-sponsored program. However, he was going to run a camp anyway. Plus, it gave him the opportunity to educate the kids in his home county. So, after Carter retired he told Maddox that he would help him.

"What I want to do is teach (them) discipline; it's more than just playing football," says Carter. "You've got to be disciplined on and off the field. If you get those two twisted up, you're going to be in a lot of trouble, and trust me I know."

Compared to last year, the turnout was quite larger, mainly in part to how successful it was the first time around. In fact, there were more than 50 campers in each session, ranging from ages six to 16. (Last year the camp averaged 35-40 kids per session.)

"We also try to emphasize teamwork and social skills," says Maddox of his community service. "The key to any sport you play is having confidence."

An example of his teachings is immediately apparent once the campers step on the field - the youngsters hustle, running to each designated station led by an instructor.

According to Maddox, the commitment shown by the youth is a direct result of two themes conveyed in his camp - repetition and structure.

"We want them to understand that you've got to make a sacrifice if you want to excel," says Maddox. "The same rules apply in the classroom; you have to listen on the football field, and you've got to listen in the classroom.

"You can be predator or prey out here; same goes for in the classroom," adds Maddox.