Tyra Williams is a 12-year-old seventh grader at Jersey City’s P.S. 11. She’s obviously also a girl.
But that didn’t stop young Tyra from participating at the 16th annual Rich Glover’s All Access to Life Foundation free football camp at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium.
Tyra got right into the action with the 70 or so other boys, who attended the week-long free camp, courtesy of Glover, the College Football Hall of Famer and former Outland and Lombardi Trophy winner when he was an All-America nose guard at the University of Nebraska in the early 1970s.
“Most of my family came here to the camp,” Williams said. “So I figured I could come here and play football myself a little bit more. I mostly play baseball and soccer, but I wanted to give football a try.”
Sure enough, Tyra was carrying the ball and sprinting to the outside on drills just like the rest of the boys.
“I think it motivates me more,” Williams said. “Usually boys see me and say, ‘Oh, she’s just a girl.’ Well, I want to be the one who can play. I figured that I could potentially play football.”
Glover, the former scholastic head coach at Ferris and Dickinson in recent years, doesn’t focus strictly on football during the free seminars. Glover, who played in the NFL with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, teaches the youngsters about life skills.
In fact, most of the young people interviewed after attending the camp all mentioned a different life skill as the most important thing they learned during the week.
“I learned to always dedicate yourself to doing something you want to do,” Williams said. “Of course, it’s been a lot of fun playing with the boys.”
Aidan Mack is a 10-year-old student at Primary Prep in Jersey City, entering the fifth grade in the fall.
“I think this camp is more inspiring and more educational,” Mack said. “There’s a lot here for me to learn other than football.”
Andre Reames, Jr. is a 14-year-old aspiring running back who will enter high school in the fall.
“I learned how to manage my time and manage my money,” Reames said. “I learned a lot. I learned how to do good things.”
Reames also learned about football.
“I learned about skills for secondary play,” Reames said. “I plan on playing in the secondary in high school. This made me physically prepared to play in high school.”
Reames didn’t know about Glover’s background. Glover’s coach at Nebraska, Bob Devaney, called Glover “the greatest defensive player I ever saw.”
For Glover’s three years at Nebraska, the Cornhuskers won two national championships and posted a record of 34-1-2. He was a two-time All-America honoree, the second time earning the honor unanimously. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
“I was impressed by what he accomplished,” Reames said. “He went to college, then the NFL. That was kind of cool.”
What’s even cooler is when the Cornhuskers visited the White House after winning the national title, then-President Richard Nixon escorted the team into the Situation Room, where exclusive cabinet meetings were held.
When the Cornhuskers huddled in the room, Nixon asked, “Which one is Glover?” Glover identified himself to the president and Nixon said, “Come sit here. This is where the Secretary of Defense sits.” Now that personifies cool.
The youngsters were also treated to a special guest, none other than local basketball legend Bob Hurley, who is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. So it meant that the campers got to meet, listen to and talk with two prestigious Hall of Famers from Jersey City.
“I never knew I could meet someone from the Hall of Fame,” Reames said. “It was really impressive.”
Hurley has known Glover for many years. Howie Wilson, one of Hurley’s former players at St. Anthony, worked the camp as a favor to Glover and he reached out to his former coach to see if Hurley could stop down and say a few words to the campers.
“I was not around until Thursday night,” Hurley said. “I came home Friday and I told Howie to tell Richie that I would be glad to come over. The kids are learning rudimentary football skills, but there were people there who could prove to the kids that you can be successful if you make good choices in life. I loved doing it. Any time I get a chance to do something close to home and help kids, I’m there. I felt connected with them. Growing up, I played football in grammar school [at the old St. Paul’s of Greenville].”
Glover was ecstatic to have Hurley come to the camp.
“I was happy and honored to have Coach Hurley come,” Glover said. “When he speaks, people listen. Coach Hurley really helped me out when I started this camp. He understands what it takes. These kids have to realize that we’re all here for them in Jersey City. If they keep their eye on the prize and work hard, they can be successful. I think we help to prepare the kids to be successes in their lives. They’re all not going to play football. But they can have the education to be successful.”
Jalil Blue is a 13-year-old eighth grader at P.S. 24.
“I learned that I have to be a student/athlete,” Blue said. “I can’t just be an athlete. If I work hard, I can get a scholarship to college. I can’t give up on myself, because I want a scholarship. I was very happy to be here, because I want to be a better football player.”
Shawn Mohammed is a 14-year-old student at Jersey City’s Middle School No. 4.
“I learned about time management,” Mohammed said. “I learned I have to be respectful to everyone. I learned that having life skills are important, because football’s not always going to be there for me. I need to get a college degree and I want to go college.”
Mohammed, who is a quarterback for the Jersey City Recreation Jets program, said that he looked Glover up on line and came away impressed.
“I made sure I come here every year,” Mohammed said. “And every year, I keep getting better.”
Keon Harris is a 13-year-old eighth grader from P.S. 24 who also plays for the J.C. Rec Jets.
“I learned about dedication and being strong willed,” said Harris, who plays safety and wide receiver. “I think that goes a long way. A lot of people give up when things don’t go their way. If I keep pushing myself forward, I can be a success. I think having the motivation helps me to push myself.”
Harris also looked Glover up on line and asked the former All-American a few questions.
“I asked him what it was like,” Harris said. “I was impressed.”
Robert Mack is a 12-year-old student of P.S. 15.
“I learned I have to work hard,” Mack said. “I learned I have to motivate myself. It was great to have Coach Glover here. I knew he was in the College Football Hall of Fame.”
Although he’s now 69 years old, Glover was out there in the hot sun, running around, offering instruction, playing with the kids.
“I was impressed with the kids all week,” said Glover, who also welcomed Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop to the camp one day. “The kids have a lot of energy. They liked the talking sessions we had. I think it was all positive. We all had a great time. This was one of the best camps we had.”