By Herman Delgado
More than 525 local high school and middle school football players took to the field at Bowie High School’s Baty-Simmang Memorial Stadium July 2017 for the Game Changers Pro Youth Football Camp. The yearly event, which last three-days, came together with the help of local high school coaches and UTEP’s coaching staff and a several Miner football players. Watching the coaches and the NCAA Division 1 players interacting with the young athletes showed the dedication, discipline and love that these young men and mentors have for the game. It was amazing to see so much young talent on one field coming together to improve their football skills and knowledge. Their desire was to learn to play as a team and take newly acquired skills back to their school. So come Friday night, they would be ready.
Game Changers, a non-profit, was founded by Rafael Ramirez and Maria G. Ramirez. When you ask Rafael Ramirez about his program and what it means to the kids of this community, his eyes light up. “Every year gets better and better,” Ramirez said. “Socorro Independent School District’s Athletic Department lends our program four vertical jump mats, which helps to measure the kid’s jumps.” He gives all the credit to about 35 area high school coaches who come together to help out. “It’s all about the kids,” he said. Ramirez also acknowledges the local school districts for their continuing support, which includes EPISD Athletic Director, Maria Kennedy; Bowie High School Interim Principal, Francisco Ordaz; and Bowie High School Head Football Coach, Robert Padilla to name a few.
At this year’s camp luncheon, which takes place before the start of the football camp, John Kopta, Hope Coach at Fellowship of Christian Athletes and USA Youth Outreach, was the motivational speaker. “My advice to coaches is to teach these young kids to win the inner game so they can dominate the outer game,” Kopta said. “We all want to dominate the outer game. We want to win on Friday nights, but first you have to win on the inside. They say a coach will impact more people in a one year than most people will in their lifetime.” Kopta’s main message to the coaches is that they are here to make a difference and be leaders on and off the field.
UTEP’s all-time leading rusher and rookie Green Bay Packers’ running back Aaron Jones, was also at the camp. He explained how important the Game Changer camp is for the young athletes who attended. “You get a chance to interact with other players from other schools,” Jones said. “I love what Mr. Ramirez does here. He incorporates a lot of things into it. It’s competitive and you get to compete. Any time you get the chance to play football and learn some stuff it will definitely help you achieve your goals and get to the next level.” Great advice from a young man that not too long ago dominated Friday night lights around many El Paso high school stadiums.
Ramirez already has other camps lined up for later this year. A basketball camp, featuring Adrian Branch, a former NBA World Champion with the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers and current ESPN College Basketball Analyst, is scheduled for the fall. There also is the possibility of a wrestling camp, too. “These coaches have the ability to create more activities for these kids. These camps are about empowering people,” Ramirez said.