Deion Barnes of the New York Jets, and Matt Johnson of the Buffalo Bills spoke to 95 campers at Ron's Rising Stars Football Camp, Wednesday, stressing the importance of being a good student athlete and working hard to achieve their goals. Video by Lindsey Smith
Ron Johnson, a former York Catholic standout and a four-year starter at Shippensburg University, had his sights set on the NFL. And, unlike many kids with the same dream, Johnson made it a reality -- at least, until injury sidelined him for good after playing in just three games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003.
But Johnson has returned home to help other kids achieve the same dream he had.
Now in its seventh season, Ron's Rising Stars Football Camp kicked off in Shippensburg for a week of drills, conditioning, scrimmages and player development for kids around south central Pennsylvania.
Staffed with members of the Shippensburg University football coaching staff and current players on the Red Raider roster, the camp offers a full slate of activities for kids aged 8 to 18 of all performance levels.
"Throughout college we worked at camps around the country, and having the opportunity to work in those camps made me think that someday I wanted to go on and run my own football camp," Johnson said. "I want to teach the kids all the right things for every offensive and defensive position, but to also teach them about life skills and different important things they will need off the field."
At Ron's Rising Stars camp, the staff integrates the importance of education and leadership with football fundamentals, taught by players the campers someday aspire to be.
Wednesday, aside from the camp's normal routine of drills, scrimmages and demonstrations, campers got to hear from two football success stories, Bishop McDevitt graduate Matt Johnson, a top Division I quarterback who recently signed to play for the Buffalo Bills, and former Penn State outside linebacker Deion Barnes, who is entering his second season with the New York Jets.
Matt Johnson and Barnes both spoke to the 95 athletes in attendance about the importance of education and being a successful student athlete, and the hard work and dedication it took for both of them to get to the NFL. They also answered questions, signed autographs and took photos with the campers.
"I feel like the words they are saying and the way they communicate with them really inspires the little kids," Ron Johnson said, "and someday those kids are going to want to attend a good college and have a good degree, but also play football at a higher level."
Johnson was a 1998 York Catholic graduate and started all four years at Ship U., while obtaining a degree in speech communications. After graduating from Shippensburg, Johnson signed as a rookie free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. He appeared in three games in 2003, but ruptured a disc in his lower back during the last preseason game of the 2004 season, sidelining him for good after doctors warned that another similar injury could paralyze him.
He also hosts two-day football mini camps throughout the summer in Biglerville, Quincy, York, Red Lion and Hagerstown, Md.