For more than two decades the Ray Guy Prokicker Kicking Camps have touched all four corners of the country.
On Monday and Tuesday, Petal High School was the location.
But the two-day clinic is far from local for those striving to be No. 1.
“It’s worth the drive, knowing that you are learning from the best,” says junior kicker Mason McKey from Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge, La. “This is pretty much top of the line instruction.”
“My dad is a high school soccer coach, and he tells me if you want to have the best competition, compete against the best,” says freshman kicker Owen Lawson from Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo.
Even more than that, the roughly 35 campers are learning from the best.
Instructors Logan O’Connor (Eastern Kentucky) and Jonathan Ruffin (Cincinnati) are former Division I kickers, the latter being the Lou Groza Award winner in 2000.
And then Guy’s gold jacket essentially speaks for itself.
“The kids ought to be taking a lot away from it, just being around the guys that whether it’s been the Hall of Fame or the Lou Groza Award or whatever it might be,” says Guy, the first punter ever to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “But it’s a part of their success.”
“And it is exciting because some guys are very, very close to hitting the ball well or snapping the ball well or punting the ball well, and they need that fine tuning or that small tweaking and that’s one of the exciting things about it,” says O’Connor. “But it’s also exciting too, to see that kid make his first kick if he had no understanding of any of the basics and you give them that, and that’s what I really love about it is giving them the tools and the opportunities that I had.”
A former camper himself O’Connor went on to perform kickoff duties all four years of college, starting at punter and placekicker for two of them.
Now, it’s all about paying it forward to the kids well on their way to earning scholarships, and even the ones with a long way to go.
“Mainly they give you exposure,” says McKey. “I mean if you go to a school maybe that doesn’t have football program, you get ranked here depending on your stats the number that you get ranked. It does give you exposure, and it’s something that college coaches can see.”
“We enjoy the final results later on down the road, to know of kids that have come through different camps and then you watch their progress through life and see their name up in the lights,” says Guy. “So it makes you proud, kind of like a dad.”
“We’re providing the guys out here with an opportunity to hopefully play at the next level, and let everybody live that dream where maybe they wouldn’t have had that opportunity before,” says O’Connor.
The camps will continue up the East Coast throughout the rest of the summer.