NFL player comes home to host football camp

  • Joe Thomas Jr. (left) works with a participant of the youth football camp he hosted on July 15 at Blackville-Hilda High School. Thomas is a Blackville native who now plays in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers.

A National Football League (NFL) player returned home to Blackville over the weekend to inspire more than 150 youth.

Joe Thomas Jr., a 2009 graduate of Blackville-Hilda High School who is now a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, hosted a youth football camp through USA Football on July 15 at his alma mater’s practice field.

“Growing up here I never had anything like this,” he said of working alongside professional football players. “I want to try to give back and inspire.”

While everyone isn’t going to play in the NFL, Thomas hopes he inspired the youth to follow their dreams as well as instill the importance of hard work, dedication and obtaining an education.

Thomas was joined by several friends who are also NFL players, including Williston native Rafael Bush. The 2005 graduate of Williston-Elko High School played for the Detroit Lions last season, but will rejoin the New Orleans Saints for his eighth season in the NFL.

“I want to show the kids that it can be done,” said Bush, who cited hard work and an “ultimate focus” as two key factors to success.

In addition to learning the fundamentals of football, Thomas said he also wanted the youth to have fun and be physically active.

This was the first year Thomas has hosted a camp, but he said he is already looking forward to next year’s camp.