Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008
By Myra Bean
When South Panola senior wide receiver Anthony Ladd decided to take part in the Deshea Townsend camp Saturday, little did he know he would garner national attention.
Ladd made some athletic catches in his group with the other high school players and Super Bowl 40 MVP Hines Ward was watching.
After the group broke for lunch, Ward took Ladd aside for about 10 minutes of one-on-one instruction. There were over 800 kids, ages 6 to 18, at the camp.
After the camp, Ward said he had been watching Ladd’s routes.
“He has a lot of talent. He is a phenomenal athlete,” Ward said.
Ladd said he was totally surprised Ward would work with him.
“He taught me a lot to help me do better in high school football,” Ladd said. “The little stuff will make a big difference.”
Ward said he hopes Ladd will take the little things he showed him and use it.
“It’s the fundamentals of the games that help you get a touchdown in the season,” Ward said.
Ward also shared how he dealt with the peer pressure of being a good student and others teased him and laughed at him.
“I know about the sacrifice and peer pressures kids have,” Ward said. “I let them know that you do not have to worry about what others think. You have to be mentally strong and go out.”
Ward has been a regular at the camp every year.
In the one-on-one session, Ward taught Ladd how to break to run his route and then to cut back in on the original line and throw off the defensive back whether it is a corner or a safety.
This was the ninth annual camp Townsend has sponsored for kids not only from Batesville but the surrounding area. One football player from J.Z. George High School in Carrollton attended the camp. He said he learned something new and faced more competition than he normally has.
Sean Pearson bought a bus load of football players from Greenwood High School. He also was one of the session instructors. He said he comes to give the kids of that school new experiences “outside the box.”
“We live in an impoverished area like the delta,” Pearson said. “When an opportunity comes along, there is no limit to what may spark our kids’ minds and try to do something themselves. We try to take any opportunity we can to take them somewhere to get a positive experience.”
Townsend touted the camp as a great success. He did not have to do as much this year, he said, thanks to the way the community came together.
“The volunteers pretty much did it all,” Townsend said. “That’s what makes it easy for me to do this camp. It’s not me coming back. It’s the fact I know there are a lot of good people around here who want to do good things for the kids.”
The only thing Townsend saw he did not like was the camp participants did not wear cleats.
“Anything you have to do with football, you need cleats,” Townsend said.
He plans to return next year for his 10th annual camp the third Saturday in May and will add campers need cleats to be able to do drills.
They will not be required, Townsend said.