Fifteen youngsters thought they were making a routine shopping trip to Academy Sports and Outdoors on Airport Boulevard in Mobile on Friday. Little did they know, they were in for a special treat as the randomly selected winners from the 550 boys and girls registered for AJ McCarron’s annual youth football camp.
The first surprise came with the appearance of McCarron. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback and former Alabama All-American talked with each youngster, posed for photos and signed photos.
The came another surprise: Each of the 15 youngsters got a $150 gift certificate to spend at the store, and on hand to help them make their choices were personnel from the Mobile Police and Fire departments.
“It was awesome just to see their faces, to see them surprised,” McCarron said. “It’s just a blessing to be able to give back, so just excited.”
McCarron’s football camp will be held on Saturday at Mobile Christian School. It will be a comeback for the event, which was not held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Until that interruption, McCarron had held the camp annually since starting in 2015. All the camps have been free to attend.
“My mom’s always been big into any type of charity work or giving back to the community and really instilled that into me at a young age,” McCarron said on Friday. “Listen, we grew up dirt poor on Dauphin Island Parkway, and we don’t come from much at all. To be able to be blessed and be where we are now, it’s only right to give back, so I’ve always tried to do things the right way and not have my last name, the McCarron name, brought into any bad spotlight, so to be able to give back to kids and, hopefully, have them be able to look up to me and how I’ve done things the right way, it’s just an honor and something we love doing.”
Partnering with Academy Sports and Outdoors for Friday’s shopping spree was new for this year’s camp.
“We enjoy doing anything we can do like this to help the community,” said Josh Brannan, the store manager.
One of the young winners already was in the football spirit on Friday, drawing up a play for McCarron to run.
The quarterback aims to complete a pass to every youngster at the camp on Saturday.
“I got to ice my arm tonight,” McCarron said.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.