Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jeff Lageman and former New York Jets teammate Dennis Byrd will lead 13 NFL players and other volunteers to Arizona this week to conduct a three-day youth football camp Thursday through Saturday, June 19-21, on the Navajo Nation, the largest native American Indian Tribe in the United States.
Sponsored in part by the NFL Players Association and a grant from NFL Charities, the camp focuses on education, character, good citizenship, physical fitness and self-esteem for the youth living on the 15-million acre reservation, which historically has been troubled by poverty, alcoholism, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and a high student drop-out rate.
Founded by Lageman and Byrd with the help of the Navajo Fish and Wildlife Department, the second-year camp will serve approximately 600 youth living on the reservation, twice as many as last year. The Navajo Nation-NFLPA Camp is the only NFL-related camp backed by the tribal government of the Navajo Nation. Local volunteers and school selection committees helped in determining camp participants.
Jaguars players joining Lageman this year include Paul Frase, Mike Hollis, Tom McManus, Michael Cheever, Aaron Beasley, Dana Hall, Jimmy Smith, Dave Thomas and Ricky Bell. Offensive guard Aaron Taylor of the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks punter Rick Tuten will also join the group. Special guests will also include Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver and his wife, Delores, chair and chief executive officer of the Jaguars Foundation; and Olympic swimmer Melanie Valerio, a classmate of Lageman's at the University of Virginia who won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in the 400-meter free relay.
Based on last year's female participation, this year's camp will also feature special segments by the Jaguars' cheerleaders : The Roar. Five members of the 1997 squad and Robin Valetutto, Jaguars' cheerleading programs manager, will be on hand to offer the Navajo children the opportunity to learn cheer and dance skills as well as how to develop leadership, motivational and team-building skills.
Navajo Nation government leaders will host an official dinner for the players and volunteers on Friday, and an honorary Pow-Wow cultural experience on Saturday.
For more information, please contact Jaguars' Community Relations Manager Steve Gerrish at (800)601-2776.