All seven Currituck football players involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp equipped themselves well during their three-day session that ended this past Saturday.
They also returned home with more than just the tools to succeed on the football field.
Area squads Currituck and Edenton competed amongst other teams from Thursday to Saturday, while Pasquotank took part in the Monday-Wednesday portion of the annual camp, held at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Teams competed in 7-on-7 games and drills, but also listened to testimony and messages from former pro football players.
That makes the overall experience a plus, Knights coach John Wheeler said.
“It wasn’t really wins and losses for us, it was getting kids some quality reps and getting that experience, because there were some really good programs there,” Wheeler said. “It’s an opportunity to get to know your teammates better, and an opportunity to get some fellowship with other teams and find out a lot about yourself.”
The Panthers took 12 of their players to the annual event, and got in 12 7-on-7 games, finishing with a 6-4-2 record, good for second overall amongst teams such as 4A East Wake and 3A Southern Nash.
Rising freshman Michael Cowell, who turned in a strong effort in a recent 7-on-7 game at at Northeastern, totaled 10 interceptions in the 12 contests.
Even with some great plays made, Pasquotank coach Kendrick Parker echoed Wheeler’s sentiments about the FCA camp strengthening his players beyond just the rigors of football.
“Football is really kind of secondary when it comes to the message of Jesus Christ,” Parker said. “Some of our guys turned a corner when they realized it’s just not their own abilities that enable them to play football.
“There’s a higher power, and just knowing and respecting the fact God has given them the abilities to play football, we need to recognize it in all we do.”
Edenton brought 41 kids to the camp, and coach Wes Mattera saw the difference in his Aces.
The team won its last four 7-on-7 games during the session.
Wheeler also noticed where the words heard at camp carried into the trip home Saturday night, and church services the following day.
Mitch Mason, chaplain of the North Carolina football team — who also spoke at The Pines last month for the Northeast North Carolina FCA Banquet — talked about an athlete who refused to give into the destructive activities he saw from others around him, and stayed true to his faith.
“Our kids really honed in on that, and we talked about it on the ride home,” Wheeler said. “They were asking questions about peer pressures at high school and peer pressures in life in general, and it seemed like a growing experience and a new sense of maturity from the kids even after just three days.”
Mason also spoke at the first session to Pasquotank players, and Mason’s own story about abandoning a potential NFL career to care for his mother battling cancer set in with the Panthers’ Jassan Bennett.
Bennett transferred from Edenton to Pasquotank last year to support his mom, who lives in Elizabeth City.
“He (Bennett) really understood that he was brought here for a purpose, and not really for football, but also as an example for others to follow,” Parker said. “He’s just really humble with it all.
“When the guys hear that from an athlete, who was a very good athlete, it has a big impact on them.”
It’s a camp that Wheeler and his program have attended the past three years, and will likely attend again to get a more well-rounded message of work ethic on and off the football field.
“It’s not for everybody,” Wheeler said. “If you’re just going for football, don’t waste your time. If you’re there to mature and strengthen relationships, then it’s a camp I would promote to all coaches and their kids.”