For the third consecutive summer, Howard Payne football will be traveling the state of Texas in a week's time to host its “Authentic Camp.”
“We call it Authentic Camp because we want to be as authentic as we can,” HPU head football coach Braxton Harris said. “We want those kids to get to know Howard Payne football in all areas. It's not just recruiting on the phone, but on the football field. How does that coach teach, how does the player respond to that teaching, how do the personalities match, just getting to know everything there is about Howard Payne football.”
Camp begins at 3 p.m. Monday, July 15 at Memorial Stadium in Midland followed by a trip to L.D. Bell High School in the Metroplex at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 16. Later that day, at 4 p.m. in Whitehouse, the East Texas portion of the camp takes place. On Wednesday, July 17, Pearland High School will be the site of a 3 p.m. camp while San Antonio MacArthur High School will host the Thursday, July 18 camp at 3 p.m. The week wraps up in Brownwood on the HPU campus at 3 p.m. Friday, July 19.
“We've run the data on the last two years that we've run the camp and the first year we ended up having eight guys that ended up coming to us, and this past year we had 12 guys from camp that came to Howard Payne and played for us here,” Harris said. “Obviously there's benefits of getting those kids on campus, getting those kids here, getting exposed to those kids and them being able to see what Howard Payne is able to offer.”
In the days of satellite camps where multiple schools are competing for the adulation of recruits in the same setting, Howard Payne takes its own camp on the road in order to spend one-on-one time with potential recruits.
“In the day and age of a mega-camp where you have 500 kids at a camp and there's 20 colleges and it's more of a cattle call than anything, we want them to see us as different, as an alternative so they can come and be coached and get better,” Harris said. “We feel like Texas high school football coaches are the best coaches in the country and all our coaches are products of Texas high school football. We want to give them one or two things they can take back to their high school to be able to improve their craft as a football player.
With Brownwood's location in the geographic center of the state, Howard Payne doesn't turn a blind eye to any area of Texas in the pursuit of talent.
“We're very fortunate Brownwood is located in Central Texas, right in the middle of everything, so there's not an area of Texas that we don't recruit,” Harris said. “We've already targeted quite a few guys and have been on the phone trying to get them to come to camp. This allows us to take our camp to them, be in their backyard and give them a chance to be coached by our coaches. We hope parents and families see in the recruiting process that Howard Payne is going to go out of their way to make them feel comfortable and make them feel at home in this process.
“It also gives us some viewership and publicity for our brand in some areas where it normally wouldn't. Houston, for instance, is five hours away and it's a tough sell to drive that far for a two-hour camp.”
The entire Yellow Jacket coaching staff, including new strength and conditioning coach Aaron Gill and a handful of new graduate assistants, will be making the trek across the state.
“Our whole staff will be there so if a kid comes to camp they can meet our whole staff in one day, be able to put names to faces and voices,” Harris said. “One of the best things about it is we added a strength and conditioning coach in January and he'll be at the camp instructing on how to run the 40, how to change directions. It's not just we're going to time you in the 40, we're going to coach you to get better at running a 40 by a guy as highly certified in strength and conditioning as you possibly can be.”
With the additions of the new staff members, the number of HPU football coaches has grown to 14 heading into the 2019 season.
“The GA's and a strength coach, we feel that's a huge commitment that the university made to football and we sure are thankful,” Harris said. “We're excited about the direction (HPU president) Dr. (Cory) Hines is taking the university and we're excited about his vision for the university. Our hope is football can be a part of that vision and we can help continue to push what he wants and how he wants to grow this university.”
Howard Payne will report for practice on Aug. 14 with the season opener set for Sept. 7 at Austin College.
“Putting the roster together, looking at what we're bringing in and what we're returning, we should have over 30 kids that will be juniors and seniors which is the most we've had since I've been here,” Harris said. “Overall, we should have close to 70 players that have played college football before, whether it's a redshirt, transfer or returnees. That's also the most we've had.
“We've always said to be able to grow the program we have to play with juniors and seniors and we're getting closer to being able to do that. We'll have a shorter fall camp this year because NCAA rules now state you can't practice until 23 days before the first contest. It will have to happen quick for us and that's the exciting part about having experienced guys because right now, if ever we needed experienced guys, this is the year with the limited fall camp.”