The next generation

Former GJ standouts Harris, Walter teach youngsters the value of dedication, hard work

Grand Junction High School graduates Andrew Walter, left, and Marques Harris run players through drills Saturday at Stocker Stadium during Harris’ Kids Football Camp.



Andre Crespin from Fruita makes a leaping catch during the Marques Harris Football Camp at Stocker Stadium on Saturday morning. Eighty area football players in grades 5-8 took part in the camp.



Andrew Walter and Marques Harris were back on the football field at Stocker Stadium.

The former NFL players and Grand Junction High School standouts gave instruction and passed on their wisdom to the next generation Saturday during Harris’ Kids Football Camp.

“I told them it doesn’t matter where you come from, a big city, a small town or a small school,” Harris said. “If your dream is to play football, baseball or basketball, whatever it may be, if you can set those goals and work toward those goals, those are the things you can take care of. You can’t worry about nothing else.

“A lot of the time kids here say, ‘Oh, I go to a small-town school, they’re not going to find us.’ Obviously, I’m a proven fact that’s not true. Andrew as well. They’ll find you. The biggest thing is making smart choices and decisions.

“There are millions of kids in the nation that are just as good of an athlete. They want the same thing as you do, but how are you going to be different from those guys?”

Eighty children going into the fifth through eighth grades participated in the camp. It ran in conjunction with the Western Rockies Sports Combine. The middle school children in Harris’s camp got the opportunity to try the combine in the afternoon.

“It’s cool,” 12-year-old Alejandro Lopez-Nehner said. “We get to come out, and they tell us how they made it and show us what they did. You have to work harder, always push yourself and never quit no matter what.”

Harris and Walter were high school teammates at Grand Junction High School. They graduated in 2000.

Harris wasn’t drafted, but still made the San Diego Chargers roster in 2005 and played for five seasons, including part of the 2009 season with the San Francisco 49ers. Harris lives in the Denver metro area and operates a couple of businesses in addition to the Harris Kids Foundation.

Walter was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2005. He played there for four years and was in the New England Patriots training camp in 2009 before he was released. Walter recently completed his master’s in business administration and is working at a bank in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Marques and I were talking,” Walter said. “We were probably the last generation where he didn’t grow up with a ton of video games. Nowadays, kids play video games all day. I don’t know what that is. One of the things I try to tell each group is stay outside, especially in the summer when you don’t have school. If you spend 10 minutes inside, it better be to eat and recharge your batteries.

“Especially in a town like this, there is so much to do. Shoot hoops, go for a hike, a bike ride. It’s amazing to me kids know more about video games than stick ball.”

Jace Derryberry, 11, of Las Vegas, admitted he likes to play video games, but realized he needs to spend more time outside playing sports if he wants to play professionally someday.

“I learned to work hard, not be inside all the time and learn more stuff about the game,” Derryberry said. “Even though I love video games, I’ve got to go outside and play.”

Derryberry was in town visiting family. His parents, Jason and Marla Derryberry, grew up in Grand Junction.

“The kids are having a great time,” Harris said. “We have some great drills set up for them. It’s crazy, though, talking to the kids. They’re talking about video games. ... It’s crazy how tired these kids are getting. A lot of the kids are not used to being outside, running around and being active. My generation, we didn’t come inside until it was dark.

“If you’re never outside and you go outside and it’s hot, then yeah, it’s going to affect you. If you’re outside and you’re active, your body is used to it and that makes a difference as well.”


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