ALAMEDA, Calif. — Several dozen teenagers from Oakland-area high schools convened Saturday morning on the Raiders’ practice field. Between the football drills, racing competitions and games, NFL coaches and players gave the student-athletes advice.
Cameron Bowman, a college football hopeful, listened closely.
He is a 17-year-old incoming senior at Skyline High. The wide receiver, safety and kick returner earned the title Saturday of being the fastest attendee at the free, one-day football clinic.
“I, for one, didn’t think I’d get this far to talk to players actually and understand the steps they took,” Bowman said. “But I get to now. Just being able to walk right up to them and hand-shake them and everything, it’s great. I love the feeling.”
The Raiders are coming in 2020. So is this.
The impact of the Raiders’ relocation on Las Vegas is as much about football as Las Vegas is about the Strip. There is more to it than that. The package deal includes community events like the one defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. oversaw Saturday with help from coaches, defensive rookies and veterans such as running back Marshawn Lynch.
Las Vegas never has had an NFL team.
Its community, naturally, never has experienced NFL outreach.
A group of pro football players never has visited a Las Vegas elementary, middle or high school during a Tuesday off-day of the regular season. NFL players haven’t hosted a Las Vegas prom for ill children, an event done recently for teens at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. They haven’t provided holiday meals or gifts for the needy. No scholarships. No donated football equipment. No free bicycles. No military outreach.
Las Vegas hasn’t seen that from an NFL team.
It is expected to, leading up to and after the Raiders’ scheduled 2020 move.
“There’s a whole generation of people who never have had a (pro) football team in their city,” Norton said. “These are the things they can get exposed to: Young people just like them striving to do something with themselves, find their passion. These players have found their passion. But their passion here is football. There are other passions they can find.”
This is the bittersweet aspect of relocation.
One region gains a community leader. Another region loses one.
The Raiders’ main off-the-field focus is to continue to leave a mark on the Bay Area while they readily can. Saturday’s camp falls in line with such efforts. Raiders coaches and players organized various drills and activities, cheering on and coaching the teens. Various tips were given, including the importance of academics.
Michael Peters was among the local prep football coaches present. He is the father of Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters and the coach at Oakland-McKlymonds, the defending 5-A state football champion.
Seven of his players attended the clinic.
“To be able to (interact with) the coaches and the players gives them strength that they can get here at one time,” Peters said. “And two, they’re learning more from them than they do from us; they’ll listen to the players that are here. Like I tell the kids, every day learn something today they didn’t know yesterday. I believed they learned something today.”
Said Norton: “These young people these days, they have a lot of distractions, a lot of people not making the right choices. We want to show them a whole group of people making the right choices. There are a few of us left, trying to do it right.”
Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.