June 20, 2013
By Jason Lewis
LAWT Sports Editor
Over 100 local children were treated to a visit from Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, St. Bernard High School alumni Joselio Hanson of the Oakland Raiders and Donald Penn of the Tampa Bay Bucs, as Penn returned to Playa Del Rey to host his annual football camp.
Last year St. Bernard was forced to suspend its varsity football team for a season because of financial reasons, but the program will resume play this year under Head Coach John Bibb who was extremely appreciative of Penn's support.
“For alumni to come back, especially with what St. Bernard has been through, and what a lot of schools are going through, to come back for a free football camp, to do that for young kids to teenagers, even kids who are transitioning to college next year, that’s what life is all about,” Bibb said.
After graduating from St. Bernard, Penn played football at Utah State, and he is now a Pro Bowl left tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Penn puts on this camp as a way to give back to his community.
“The camp was remarkable,” Bibb said. “It was an outstanding thing for the community and the boys. That pigskin brings together a lot of things that inner city kids need, outer city kids need, youth as a whole need. Discipline and teamwork.”
Many children do not have the opportunity to be coached by NFL players, especially because of the cost of many camps.
“This day and age the economy is rough,” Bibb said. “So I want to emphasize that this camp was free. There are camps from here to Alabama to Texas, and locally at UCLA and USC. Camps have to get the money to run the camps. They have to pay for the coaches, and to pay for the facilities. One thing Donald Penn did was give this to us for free.”
Even though the camp was given at no cost, they still gave quality coaching to the kids on hand.
“We go hard or we go home,” Bibb said. “That’s one of our mottos here at St. Bernard. But we weren’t stressing pushing the kids, but learning the techniques and the fundamentals. They were being coached by players who played the game for five to ten years. So they were really getting hand on coaching. And it was good for them to hear something coming from another person besides myself. I like to scream and fuss a little bit, but it’s good to hear from a guy that you see on Sundays. A guy that you see on Saturdays. You know, college guys and NFL guys. To hear the different terminology coming from a player with a lot of experience.”
Penn is doing a great thing for kids that are in a similar position that he was when he was a teenager, and he is an asset to the black community.