Greg Jones remembers growing up in Beaufort with no professional sports team or major college program nearby.
The former Battery Creek High School football standout and longtime Jacksonville Jaguars fullback is hoping today to bring a taste of the big time to children where he grew up. Jones, through his nonprofit Lead Block Foundation, will host a free youth football camp at Battery Creek for 150 children from 9:30 a.m. until noon.
"Since I've been blessed with so much, me and my family, I just want to give back to those who can't do it, kids who are in a bad situation," Jones said Friday.
Spots in the camp are full, but the camp is open to spectators. Jones will be accompanied by some of his former Florida State teammates, including two-time Super Bowl champion Bryant McFadden. Local high school football coaches will help teach fundamentals and technique while delivering a message of sportsmanship.
Jones, an NFL veteran drafted in 2004, said he makes it home to Beaufort about once a month during the offseason. He still has family in the area.
He was granted time off during the 2011 season to attend memorial services for relative Joe Frazier and was most recently back for Easter.
It was Jones' grandmother who often reminded him to help the less fortunate. Jones and his wife, Dana, began Lead Block Foundation in 2011 to aid kids and families in need, both in the Jacksonville area and in Beaufort.
Jones said the foundation would plan food and gift drives around Thanksgiving and Christmas. He hopes to make the Battery Creek camp a regular event.
"Hopefully, if we can get a turnout and everyone has a good experience, we can make it an annual thing," Jones said. "We'll see how it goes."
The football camp will be a first for Jones, but he has helped the area in other ways in the past. He worked with Feed the Children and Boys and Girls Club of Beaufort in 2009 to help provide 500 families with Christmas gifts.
Jones is preparing for his eighth NFL season (He missed the 2006 season with a torn ACL). He has filled in at tailback at times during his career and also caught passes out of the backfield. But his primary responsibility has been to pave the way for the team's running backs, having blocked for three-time Pro Bowlers Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
At the Shrine Bowl game after his senior season of high school, Jones was able to attend his first professional sporting event, a Charlotte Hornets basketball game. He attended his first NFL game while in college at Florida State.
Participants in today's camp will get that exposure much sooner.
"(We'll) teach them the fundamentals, open their eyes up a little bit, just to let them experience a professional," Jones said. "Hopefully they can want to strive to be that, so they can set their goals a little bit higher."
LEAD BLOCK FOUNDATION INAUGURALYOUTH FOOTBALL CAMP
What: Former Battery Creek football standout Greg Jones, now a fullback with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, is hosting a football skills camp for children ages 10-18. Participants will learn fundamentals, form and technique, as well as proper sportsmanship.
Where: Battery Creek High School
When: Today, 9:30 a.m. until noon
Details: Registration was limited to first 150 entries and is closed. Spectators are welcome, free of charge.