Kevin Payne remembers what it was like coming up filled with football dreams in a small Arkansas town.
A product of Junction City, Payne earned everything he ever achieved in his chosen sport. He parlayed his only FBS scholarship offer at Louisiana-Monroe into an outstanding college career and an NFL job.
Now playing safety for the St. Louis Rams after the Chicago Bears traded him this offseason, Payne will bring his story of success and hard work back to Junction City on July 17 with his first namesake football camp for youngsters.
"Growing up as a kid, I never had the opportunity to get an autograph or meet a pro athlete," Payne said. "Growing up in the area I did, it was hard to see a lot of guys doing positive things. I wanted to come back and give positive images and show them that anything is possible in life with hard work."
The Kevin Payne Fundamental Football Camp is free to all youth in the region, from south Arkansas to northeastern Louisiana. Registration at Junction City (Ark.) High School will begin at 7 a.m. that day and instruction starts at 8 a.m. They'll have food for the kids afterward too.
"We'll take them through stations for fundamental drills and help them improve their skill levels," Payne said.
As much as football though, Payne wants to encourage his campers to set goals and work toward them.
"You don't have to be a pro athlete," Payne said. "You can be a doctor or a lawyer. Whatever you want, it just takes hard work and perseverance. "We're using football to make a bigger statement. We're using football to let them know that education and knowledge is power. You should stay in school and listen to the people who are trying to help you. "
Payne plans to bring back a few more NFL athletes, as well as former high school and college standouts from the area.
"You can't save the world, but if you can change one person's life, that's big," Payne said. "You can accomplish things and be successful, even if people think you can't just because you're from a small town."
Originally a fifth-round pick of the Bears, Payne started 22 of 32 games over three seasons, recording 195 tackles, four interceptions, 10 passes defended and one sack. He's still adjusting to life with the Rams but is happy for the change of scenery.
"I like it," said Payne, who started his college career as a running back before moving to defense. "It's always good to have a fresh start. The biggest thing is to take advantage of every opportunity. I'm studying hard and watching film every chance I get. If you work hard, things will take care of themselves.
"I'm enjoying myself and loving the schemes of the defense. It should give me a great opportunity to go out and make plays."
Payne is also keeping tabs on the ULM program that gave him his start. He's optimistic about ULM's chances to improve under first-year coach Todd Berry, who was the school's offensive coordinator when Payne was playing.
"I had a chance to play for Coach Berry before he left," Payne said. "He's a great coach, a smart coach and a motivator. He knows how to recruit too. You have to get good recruits to win games. They have a great coaching staff that can bring in good kids. They have a hall of famer as the defensive tackles coach (Leon Lett). Coach Berry has coached at the highest levels. I see the program changing for the better."
EVENT DATE: JULY 17 (8:00am-12:00pm)
LOCATION: JUNCTION CITY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FIELD
ADDRESS: 200 West Holly Road, Junction City, AR 71749-9032
ELIGIBILITIES: ATHLETES GRADES 6TH - 9TH AGES 11 - 15 (FALL-2010)
REGISTRATIONS: **THIS CAMP IS FREE OF CHARGE** DEADLINE TO REGISTER IS JULY 5TH. COMPLETE ONLINE REGISTRATION FORM AT bit.ly/kevinpaynecamp
CHECK IN: OPENS 7:00am - 7:45am CAMP BEGINS PROMPTLY @ 8:00am
WHAT TO BRING: CLOTHING THAT WILL KEEP YOU COOL, FOOTBALL CLEATS, SUN SCREEN, (WATER, GATORADE & LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED). ABOUT FUNDAMENTAL FOOTBALL CAMP: THE FUNDAMENTAL CAMP WILL FEATURE CURRENT NFL PLAYERS AS WELL AS AREA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACHES, COLLEGE COACHES, & PREVIOUS COLLEGIATE PLAYERS . THE GOAL OF THE CAMP IS TO TEACH FUNDAMENTALS & TECHNIQUES THAT WILL HELP ATHLETES RAISE THEIR PERFORMANCE & COMPETE ON A HIGHER LEVEL. THESE DRILLS WILL BE CRITIQUED BY COACHES & PLAYERS.