Two weeks from Wednesday the University of Hawaii football team will report to training camp. Right now, some of the Rainbow Warriors are going through a different kind of training camp.
It's called the Youth Impact Program, and over the course of last week and this week, 72 middle school boys from at-risk neighborhoods are getting a crash course in what it's like to be a UH student-athlete.
"It's honestly been the biggest blessing to be able to work with this age group and to just be around them to learn so much," said UH receiver John Ursua.
Eleven Rainbow Warriors players, 11 United States Marines, UH graduate assistant coaches and public school teachers have teamed up to give the kids over 60 hours of time in the classroom, 20 hours of on the field football and fitness training, and tomorrow a field trip to Pearl Harbor.
Together they talk about aspirations, goals and life skills. Today's topic was resiliency, something quarterback Dru Brown is well-versed in.
"I just told them how I've been doubted my whole life and how I just listen to my family and myself," said Brown. "I'm here now and I'm doing okay and staying afloat. If that connected one kid in that auditorium then this whole thing was worth it."
It's not just the kids that are learning. The Warriors players said being a part of this program has been eye opening. And their connection with these kids won't end when the program does this Friday.
"I can bet that all these guys, if we see them at the stadium, heck yeah we're going to bring them down on the field and say what's up to them because we're creating those relationships here and trying to help them go chase their dreams and stay in school," Brown said.
Oklahoma native J.R. Hensley wasn't sure what to expect when tasked with teaching kids predominantly from Kalihi and the West Oahu. Hensley quickly discovered the aloha spirit.
"It doesn't matter where I'm from or what I look like or what I do, these kids just treat me as someone who supports the Rainbow Warrior football team and who plays for the Rainbow Warriors and we're all one big family. It's special, you can't get that anywhere else."
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