FILLMORE — Football has been taking some hits lately. If it isn’t concussions it’s student-athletes unionizing. If it isn’t Deflategate it’s coaches trying to regulate summer camps. If it isn’t the NFL doing its best impersonation of "Animal House," it’s have colleges freezing out have-not colleges.
Enter the Boone brothers, Aaron, Jesse and Jason, to nudge the pendulum back in the other direction.
All three look at football the way Italians look at sports cars. It was football that gave them self-confidence in high school, it was football that got them their college degrees, it was football that paid each of them to play professionally — for a combined 21 years in leagues ranging from the NFL to NFL-Europe, CFL, UFL and AFL.
Now in their 30s, retired from their playing days and looking back on an unbelievable ride, their abiding desire is to say thank you.
How are they doing that?
By holding a football camp that just may be the best bargain in the history of the world, or at least since the sale of Manhattan.
The Boone Brothers Football Camp will be this Saturday, July 11, on the high school field in Fillmore from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. All fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are cordially invited.
The cost: $29.
That is not a misprint. Twenty-nine dollars, tax included — the price of a Coke, nachos and a hot dog at the Rose Bowl — gets a kid a day of instruction from three men who wore NFL jerseys, plus lunch, plus a camp T-shirt, plus a wristband, plus prizes, plus a 32-ounce bottle of Powerade, plus a photo with the Boone Brothers.
“For $29 you get $35 worth of gear and food,” says Jesse Boone, who adds needlessly, “Our goal isn’t to make money.”
What their goal is, says Aaron Boone, is to “share our love of the game and instill passion and drive. Let kids know they can dream big.”
Their message is that you can make it from anywhere. Take them, for example. They grew up in Flowell, a farm town so small that neighboring Fillmore (pop. 2,253) looked gigantic.
When they attended Millard High School in Fillmore and signed up for the football team, they hadn’t a clue where it would take them.
“Absolutely no idea,” says Jesse, who was 6-foot-4 and weighed 130 pounds as a freshman. Not realizing he would top out at 300 pounds — his playing weight at the University of Utah, where he was an all-conference center — he signed up for quarterback.
“That’s the thing,” he says. “You just don’t know what you’re going to be.”
Hence, the Boone Brothers camp plays every kid at every position. Throwing, receiving, kicking, blocking, running, tackling — it’s all covered. And no one’s going to get a concussion. There are no pads and no contact.
Even though the brothers all live and work along the Wasatch Front and Back, they wouldn’t think of holding the camp anywhere but their hometown.
Says Aaron: “We always wanted to give back, and go back, and this is a way to do that.”
With its central Utah location, Fillmore is an easy day’s drive from both southern and northern Utah, making the camp available to football enthusiasts from all over. But the brothers admit to a soft spot for rural kids “who don’t think they’re entitled; when you tell them to jump, they’ll ask how high.”
“A lot of kids in a small town don’t know college is a possibility, and that football can get them there,” says Aaron.
They tell the campers that, and plenty more. Their older brother Jonathan is a motivational speaker and gives the kids tips on goal-setting and overcoming life’s obstacles, while a brother-in-law, Sean Thompson, who played football at the University of Virginia, rounds out the staff.
A bunch of local sponsors help defray costs and provide some of the gear and prizes, while the Boones donate their money, their time, their expertise and their love of the game.
“We want to make it fun,” says Jesse, “and affordable. We never went to football camps when we were young, not with 10 kids in the family and (camps) costing $200 and more.”
So they invented a camp where you can come out ahead, in every way.
To register, go to BooneBrothersFootball.com. And do it early, so they make sure to order enough shirts.
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays.