Area athletes helped NFL kicker Matt McCrane raise $3,000 for the Central Texas Veterans Memorial Park.

The funds raised from Friday’s inaugural Cen-Tex Charitable Kicking Camp will go to repairing multiple stone tablets bearing the names of area veterans, damaged when they toppled during a strong storm last spring.

“Brownwood is a hard working community, a lot different than these metro-plexes where kids just show out whether they’re gifted in football or academically,” McCrane said. “That doesn’t happen in Brownwood. It takes a lot of work. We’re a blue-collar community that works hard. We compete with teams that have those advantages. I didn’t want to charge much, $20 per kid, because I wanted a big turnout to help the veterans memorial and 100 percent went directly to the memorial. Some helped out with T-shirt costs, but to give back to Brownwood and help the kids directly that’s pretty cool.”

McCrane said the camp will continue using its proceeds to benefit different area not-for-profit organizations and endeavors in the future, but one aspect of the camp that will remain constant is awarding the Cody Cornell Award, which goes to the camper who shows the most attention to detail, effort and determination. This year’s recipients were Hudson Deen in the third to fifth-grade session, Caleb Nelson from the sixth through eighth-grade session and Trace Phillips from the ninth to 12th-grade session, who drove more than three hours to attend the camp.

“My baseball coach sent me a form for the camp and I figured it would be fun to come out,” Phillips said. “It was about three hours. This was great and good getting to work with Matt and being around guys that know what they’re doing and learning from Matt and the other guys. It was a good experience and I would definitely come back.”

Each award recipient received an autographed helmet from Cardinal first-round draft pick Josh Rosen, a quarterback out of UCLA, and posed for a photo with McCrane as well as Cornell’s parents Ron and Jennifer and bother Cameron.

“I’m proud, honored and a little humbled Cody touched the community like he did,” Ron Cornell said. “He is being honored here today with these guys, who are diligent, digging into what they’re doing and wanting to be the best they can. That says a lot about Cody. It’s a testament to him and a testament to the McCranes.”

Although drawing kickers and punters from throughout central Texas, much of the attendees came from Brown County. With kickers from all three major school districts in attendance, many felt the focused attention on special teams will benefit their teams this fall.

“We don’t focus on it as much in practice so this one-on-one time really helps,” said Brownwood High School kicker Zach Smith, who contributed mostly on extra point attempts but looks to increase his contributions to more areas next season. “… [Special teams] are very important. A lot of games come down to a single point. It can make or break you. Last year, it came down to that and it puts a lot of pressure on you in that situation. Having confidence in the techniques Matt taught us will definitely help us.”

While most participants will now turn their attention to offseason conditioning, McCrane will take a few weeks off until suiting up with his Arizona Cardinal teammates as he fights for a spot on the roster during training camp.

“I have some free time so I’m going back to the lake to spend some time with my fiancé (Megan Roe) and my family,” McCrane said. “I’ll try to get her out on the wakeboard. We’ll do that for a few days, then we’ll drive up to Manhattan, Kansas, where I will be for a week with my fiancé, who works full-time with K-State football. She has to get back to her job, then I fly back to Arizona on the 21st. It’s a hard deal. I will be away from her for the next five or six months and, hopefully, all the way to the Super Bowl. That’s the goal in the end.”

McCrane thanked the various individual and business sponsors who he said made this event, and its subsequent donation, possible.

“We had quite a few sponsors coming out to help, whether it’s Texas Bank helping financially, United Supermarket helping with the water, we had Underwood’s Barbecue handing out coupons for the kids,” McCrane said. “There were a lot of sponsors behind the scenes that made this happen and also the kids contributing and buying some of the things we had for sale – holders, Tees and such. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help.”