During his BYU football career, Brady Poppinga was known for his fierce intensity, boundless enthusiasm and stellar defensive play.
Now, Poppinga a three-year starter at linebacker for the Green Bay Packers is trying to pass on those traits and abilities to the next generation.
That's one of the reasons he is holding "The Poppinga Football Experience Skills Camp" on July 18 at the BYU football practice facilities in Provo. He and younger brother Kelly, a two-year Cougar starter who signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins this spring, and older brother Casey, a former Utah State tight end, are helping Brady with the camp.
The camp is for kids in 5th to 12th grades and costs $70 ($75 after June 23). Several current Cougar players and some former players, like Bryan Kehl, who was a fourth-round selection of the New York Giants in April's NFL draft, are scheduled to be involved in the camp.
"We'll be teaching football fundamentals tackling, blocking and doing agility drills that are taken from the NFL combines and teaching techniques and drills that are done at BYU and Green Bay practices," Brady said. "It will give kids a foundation for them to be able to work out on their own and improve. If somebody looks really good, we'll be sure to let (BYU coach Bronco) Mendenhall know.
"We'll also do some motivational speaking to the kids and give them advice about football and about life."
For Poppinga, the purpose of the camp goes beyond football.
This year, Poppinga started a nonprofit "The Poppinga Play It Forward Fund," with the aim to raise money for less-fortunate children. Part of the proceeds of the camp in Provo will go to the family of a young American Fork girl, Tiffany Searle, who contracted a mysterious illness that left her without the use of her limbs. Doctors have not been able to diagnose the illness, and the frequent trips to specialists for medical tests have saddled the Searles with a serious financial burden.
"This is the type of situation we want to help with," Brady said. "We want to use football as a rallying point for these causes. It's an avenue to help children with urgent needs."
Helping those in need is nothing new for the Poppingas. Brady and his wife, Brooke, are heavily involved in community service in Green Bay, Wisc. Working with other foundations, the Poppingas have been able to provide necessities for ailing kids around the world.
"My wife and I have a special place in our hearts for our children," Brady explained. "This foundation helps them get back on normal ground. Football has benefited me so much and has taught me so much in my life. I want to use what I have to benefit others if possible."
The Poppingas are the parents of two children a daughter, Jasmine, 3, and a son, Julius Maximus, 2, a name inspired by Brady's favorite movie, "Gladiator."
A year ago, Brady, Kelly, Casey, and their father, Dennis, who played for BYU in the early 1970s, hosted a football camp in their hometown of Evanston, Wyo., and were able to raise $3,000 for Primary Children's Medical Center. Another camp will be held in Evanston on July 11. After witnessing the success of the camp in Evanston, the Poppingas wanted to branch out to Utah County and open it up to kids throughout Utah.
"A lot of what is taught at the camp is what Coach Mendenhall instilled in Brady and Kelly," Dennis Poppinga said. "Casey didn't play at BYU, but he has those same values of accountability, discipline, hard work and commitment. They want to teach the kids who come to the camp about good values and the importance of doing well in school and how it all applies to both football and to life."
To register for "The Poppinga Football Experience Skills Camp," or to find out more information, contact Dennis Poppinga at 307-789-1770 or [email protected].
Earlier this year, Brady Poppinga completed his third season as a starting strongside linebacker with the Packers. He said his NFL highlight to date was playing in the NFC championship game in Green Bay last January, though the Packers fell to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants.
"I didn't have a lot of tackles, but I fulfilled the role I was given. It was the best game of my career," he said. "A lot of what I do for our defense can't be quantified by statistics."
That NFC title tilt was played on the legendary "frozen tundra of Lambeau Field," and Poppinga, a fourth-round pick of the Packers in 2005, relishes those cold-weather contests. "I was born and bred to play in those games, coming from Wyoming," he said.
Poppinga loves the community in Green Bay, where fan interest and enthusiasm matches a college atmosphere.
"The fans there feel they can influence the outcome of a game," he said. "The team is a reflection of the community. I was drafted into a great situation. I fit well into the scheme. We're trying to build on (an NFC championship game appearance) and we are strong on offense and defense. We have a lot of experience. We're optimistic. The foundation for the future is set."
During his time in Green Bay, Poppinga became friends with Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Brett Favre, who retired after the 2007 season.
"He's one of the best all-time football players ever," Poppinga said. "But he was a far better person than a football player. I remember walking with him in a crowded airport, knowing that people were going to start coming up to him. He made the comment to me, 'I can't believe people make such a big deal about a guy who can throw a football. I'm just a regular guy.' That's how he saw himself, as a regular guy. He treated everyone the way he wanted to be treated. He was in touch with reality."While Favre's career is over, Kelly Poppinga's is just beginning. Brady foresees a bright future for his younger brother with the Dolphins. "Kelly has all the talent and physical makeup to be a mainstay in this league for years to come. He can become a core player in Miami. We talk all the time. Does he seek my advice? I don't know. But he gets my advice anyway."
E-mail: [email protected]