As part of Howard Payne second-year head football coach Braxton Harris' continuing efforts to reconstruct the program into a contender in the American Southwest Conference, the Yellow Jacket coaching staff will again tour the state of Texas this week hosting six camps in five days.
Camps will be held at Wolfforth Frenship High School at 3 p.m. Monday, Euless Trinity High School at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Lindale High School at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Katy Rhodes Stadium at 3 p.m. Wednesday, San Antonio MacArthur High School at 3 p.m. Thursday, and back on the HPU campus at 3 p.m. Friday.
“The first thing is we want to be able to recruit the whole state of Texas,” said Harris, who hosted camps state-wide last summer as well. “We feel like we have the best state in the nation to be able to recruit from, and the biggest part of that is the Texas high school coaches. Brownwood is in the center of Texas, but sometimes that's a little far from some places so we want to take the camp to them. If we find kids that we like out there then we can start building those relationships face to face. That's what these camps do for us.
“We're excited to be able to spread the name of Howard Payne football and Howard Payne University across the state of Texas — from Lubbock, to Dallas, to East Texas, to Houston and we added San Antonio to our camp list this year.”
While the Yellow Jackets posted just a 1-9 record in Harris' first season, word is starting to spread around the state the Howard Payne is a program poised to make vast improvements — and soon.
“Right now we have a record number of kids pre-registered for our camps,” Harris said. “We're estimating at close to 500 kids that will walk away this summer with a Howard Payne shirt and a chance to be at our camps. I've been at some places that had really good programs, but we never had that many kids at camp. I think that's a reflection of the job our coaches are doing and the excitement that is building for Howard Payne football. It makes a big difference when one of our coaches has visited a school two or three times already at this point, that helps build relationships and people are starting to take notice.”
Going into his second season in charge of the Yellow Jacket program, Harris, the coaching staff and many of the players are more settled in and familiar with one another — which is extremely beneficial.
“We're a year older,” Harris said. “Going into this season we have kids that have not just been in our program for a month before they played their first football game, they've been in the program for a full calendar year. We're excited about seeing the progress those guys have made, along with the guys we're bringing in as freshman. We've also made a big push this year to bring in some transfer kids to create some competition amongst those young kids.
“Coaching wise, (offensive coordinator) Coby Gipson and (offensive line coach) Scott Clough are both coming back and those guys have been here from the get-go with me, which makes for so much more continuity. That makes a big difference. The guys that came in on the defensive side of the ball (co-defensive coordinators Weston Glaser and Will Snyder) have been here since January. We'll go into the fall with the same faces we had in the spring, so that's a big positive for us.”
The week of camps wraps up Friday in Howard Payne's backyard, and Harris is hopeful or a large turnout from local athletes.
“I hope to be able to have all the area kids to come to that camp,” Harris said. “We know and have invested in this local area. We have really good athletes within an 80-mile radius of Brownwood, some really good football players that can help us win a lot of football games. We want to be to show those kids what Howard Payne football is about and how they can factor into it. There's some kids in this area we spent a lot of time with that we want them to be able to choose to stay close to home.”
To register online for any of the HPU football camps this week, visit www.hputx.edu/footballcamp.
The Yellow Jackets open the 2018 football season on Sept. 8 in Newburg, Oregon against George Fox University.