CAMARILLO, Calif. - The Los Angeles Rams held an unusual mini-camp over the weekend. Former and current players took the field with the youth from the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Camarillo. The lessons the players shared went well beyond the field.
It wasn’t your typical youth football clinic that the Los Angeles Rams are used to hosting -- the participants were inmates from the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Camarillo.
“Football is so important to our kids that they actually stay out of trouble in order to play and so football is a huge motivator for our youth,” Maria Harper, the superintendent at the Youth Correctional Facility.”
For the first time, the Rams organization held a mini-camp for the inmates at Juvenile Hall.
“We had 9 former Rams players and 3 current players,” Johnathan Franklin, the Rams Community Relations. “It’s a great opportunity to show them that we all have a story, and we all have a rollercoaster in life, but if we know our ‘why’ then all things are truly possible.”
Before they hit the field, the Rams sat down with the inmates to talk about their struggles, goals, and self-worth. Current player Troy Hill was among the players who made the trip. The St. Bonaventure High School alumni said he saw himself in many of the teens -- but was able to turn his life around.
“When I was living in Ohio and I wasn’t going to school and things like that I felt I could relate to them,” said Hill. “I just wanted to give them my knowledge on what I have been through and what I have seen throughout my life.”
For inmates like Robert Ayala, the conversation with the pro athletes was inspiring.
“Normally we feel like we are outcast, but now that they are here and getting involved it's very heartwarming,” said Ayala. “It does let me know that we are important and we are a part of society.”
“It was great to connect with our youth,” said Franklin. “To even have kids that had a scholarship taken away and asking questions like how can I get it back, what does college look like?” They said thank you so much and we are very inspired. Personally, it’s powerful but overall for our organization, this is what it's all about.”
The Rams donated cleats and jerseys to each at-risk youth. Then the fun began on the field with a mini-camp. The Rams look forward to keeping this relationship going showing -- even when life gets hard---there's always a way out.