After venturing to Lubbock, the Metroplex, East Texas, Houston and San Antonio earlier in the week, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets summer football camp made its final stop at the McCullough Athletic Center on the HPU campus Friday afternoon.
A record amount of campers attended the six events over a five-day stretch, as for the second year in a row head coach Braxton Harris and the HPU coaching staff made a whirlwind tour of Texas spreading the word about the Yellow Jacket football program and Howard Payne University.
“You're seeing that in how many kids are showing up and how many kids are interested in Howard Payne football,” Harris said in regard to how well the word about HPU is being received statewide. “That's the big thing for us, to be able to produce awareness for the university and produce awareness for the football program. Make no bones about it, day one since I've been here I've said recruiting is the life blood of our program. We will be successful because we recruit good football players. I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I know if my guy is faster than yours I have a chance. You're seeing more people aware of what we have to offer here in Brownwood and Howard Payne.
“We started in Lubbock and that feels like a long time ago but it was just Monday. It's been phenomenal. We got up in the Metroplex and had over 100 kids, we went out to East Texas and had over 100 kids and more than 100 kids in Houston. To have that in those three areas is big for us. We've set a record already as far as most kids at a camp. Not only is it good to have numbers there, but it's good to have quality and get a chance to spend time with those kids and their families.”
The massive turnout at the camps comes despite record or near-record high temperatures throughout the state, which were intensified with many of the camps taking place on turf surfaces in the middle of the afternoon. Temperatures reached 108 degrees during Friday's action on the HPU campus.
“It's hot, but it's always hot in Texas,” Harris said. “Something we pride ourselves on at Howard Payne, being truly in Central Texas, is we embrace the heat. We've told the kids from day one at every camp we've been to that everybody knows it's hot, this is the last time we want to hear that it's hot, now let's get better and continue to improve.
“A lot of these kids are working out in the morning and then coming to our camp in the afternoon. It's not like you're dealing with someone who's been sitting inside eating nachos and playing video games all day.”
Harris stated the camps have been very well-received, particularly by high school football coaches around the state.
“Every camp we've been to we've had five or six head coaches from that area who have brought their kids out,” Harris said. “Probably the most impressive thing about our state is how Texas does football — high school coaches care about their kids. When I see a high school coach will get in his car and drive his kids to a camp so the kids get an opportunity to play at the next level, that's phenomenal and speaks so highly of the quality of the coaches in the state of Texas, and the game.”
Returning home Friday was the highlight of the trip for Harris and company, who spend the bulk of their recruiting time with players within a 100-mile radius of Brownwood.
“We've invested a lot in this local area with time and effort and resources to be able to spread the word,” Harris said. “We're excited to see the local kids be able to come and play. We feel like that's one of the keys to our program, getting local kids to choose to stay at home. There's a lot of people who signed up for this camp that have parents that played or went to school at Howard Payne and now they're bringing their kids back to look at Howard Payne. That's phenomenal and a legacy right there, and something we're trying to tap in to. We're looking for some of these local kids to stay close to home. Being a hometown kid, right up the street, we want them to be able choose us and feel great about that option.”
The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets report for preseason practice Aug. 11 and open the regular season Sept. 8 at George Fox University in Oregon.