For Chioke Bradley, next month’s Nike Football Skills Camp at Arlin Field may as well be a family reunion — and Mansfield Senior’s longtime coach is one proud patriarch.
Bradley will serve as camp director during the three-day event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 6 to 8 at Senior High’s venerable football stadium at the corner of Trimble Road and West Fourth Street. The camp is open to children age 8 to 18 and will feature a staff of college football players, many of whom played for Bradley.
Counselors scheduled to work the camp include Mansfield Senior grads Angelo Grose (Michigan State), Anthony Hawkins (Bowling Green), Clay Caudill (Toledo), Cam Todd (Ohio Dominican), Aveon Grose (Charlotte) and Myles Bradley (Bowling Green).
Former Senior High greats and NFL vets Hugh Douglas and Jake Soliday will also be in attendance, along with Madison product Tyrell Ajian (Kentucky) and Lexington grad Cade Stover (Ohio State). Several of Stover’s OSU teammates, including running back TreVeyon Henderson, will also be in Mansfield.
“It’s a beautiful thing to have all those guys come back and give back to the kids and our community,” said Bradley, a 1994 Senior High graduate. “I’m in the kid business. I just want to see kids succeed. If I can help any kid move his career forward, I’m going to be there to do that.”
The camp was the brainchild of another local product, 2013 Ontario graduate Jacob Byrd. Byrd was teaching tennis and organizing tennis camps for Nike in Atlanta and Columbus before reaching out to Stover through a mutual friend.
The project took on a life of its own and now Byrd is organizing football camps all across the country this summer.
“I taught tennis in Atlanta so I had experience running big tennis camps. The football side of things just kind of fell in my lap,” Byrd said. “I was set to organize Nike tennis camps, but just in talking with Cade. I reached out to Nike to have one (football) camp in Mansfield. They agreed to that and then it just kind of snow-balled from there.
“It started with tennis camps to one football camp in Mansfield and now I’ve got 11 football camps across the country.”
Byrd’s NextGen Camps is staging the events in conjunction with Nike and Columbus-based NIL Management, which helps Ohio State athletes navigate the murky name, image and likeness waters that allow college athletes to cash in on endorsements deals and appearances. The counselors working the Mansfield camp and other NextGen camps will be compensated.
“It’s a crazy world out there,” Byrd said. “NIL Management works strictly with Ohio State athletes and they’ve done a good job of setting up deals for them.”
Other NextGen camps will be held in Columbus, Akron, Lexington, Ky., Tuscaloosa Ala., Oxford, Mich., Pittsburgh, Pa., Dallas, Richmond, Va., New Orleans, and Atlanta.
“Some of the other camps will have NFL players as well,” Byrd said. “The Akron camp will have Denzel Ward of the Browns and Parris Campbell of the (Indianapolis) Colts (both former Buckeyes). The Michigan camp will have Donovan Peoples-Jones of the Browns.”
While Byrd and Bradley didn’t know each other before, they both wanted to do something special for the young people in their hometown.
“He’s a Richland County guy and he had a vision of putting together something big for the community and he needed a venue and someone who would support his vision,” Bradley said. “I’ve always had the same vision. I always wanted to have a monster camp at Arlin Field. I felt like our venue is perfect.”
The Mansfield event has room for 150 campers. The camp costs $495 and Byrd said only a handful of openings remain.
“There’s 120 registered (as of last week),” Byrd said. “We’ve provided 40 scholarships for kids in Mansfield through the generosity of local businesses and Tyger alumni. I think it’s going to be a really great experience for the kids.”
“It’s always about the kids. I tell my staff when it stops being about the kids and giving back to the kids in the community, then it’s time to get out,” Bradley said. “I love kids. That is the plan God had for me, to come back and give back to the kids in our area.”