As soon as Evan Larrick, 9, crossed the finish line at Lakewood Ranch High, he heard a loud “yes!” from behind him.
He turned around to see Fabian Moreau, the Washington Redskins cornerback, sprinting toward him. Moreau grabbed Larrick and raised him above his head, like Mufasa raising Simba on Pride Rock. They both beamed. He brought Larrick back down to Earth, but not before imprinting a lifelong memory.
Moreau hosted a football camp for 8-14 year olds at the school on July 13. I could tell you about how the camp had seven positional stations, or how it ended with “fastest man” 40-yard dash competitions, like the one Larrick won, but instead I’m going to write about the camp’s atmosphere.
See, camps tagged with the name of a professional athlete can go one of two ways. The athlete can be involved, interacting with the kids and taking a genuine interest in everyone having fun, or the athlete can be distant, only there for the paycheck and the good press. Moreau, thankfully, falls into the former category. Based on what I saw, Moreau is a leader, a shining example of everything these camps should be.
He got the three-hour camp started right, by dancing to the hip-hop soundtrack played over the loudspeakers. It started as a shoulder shake, then made its way through his arms until Moreau’s whole body was grooving as he walked from station to station. His infectious energy reached the kids, who also broke into capers with frequency.
Moreau didn’t play favorites. While the Lakewood Ranch High football program, including head coach Rashad West, shepherded kids through stations, Moreau made sure each of the 80 campers had a personal interaction with him, whether that was giving a high five in the stretching lines, giving instructions during a drill or giving an autograph at the end of the session.
(He also brought out former Mustang and current Redskin Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. While "DRC" didn't get involved in any drills, he did take pictures with the kids and even dance a little himself.)
Moreau used every opportunity possible to get specific about his instruction. He told the wide receiver participants to place their inside foot forward at the line of scrimmage. He told the defensive backs to stay low in their stances. He held blocking pads for the running back drills and even placed the cones for the 40-yard dashes himself.
Whenever someone dropped a pass, Moreau let out a loud “Aw, man, come on!” and threw his hands in the air, still smiling. Like the best football coaches, Moreau knows how to jab players while making sure they have fun. For three hours, he was basically everyone’s big brother.
Including Larrick. He didn’t know much about Moreau before the camp, he admitted. Just that he played professional football. That’s understandable. Moreau is a skilled slot corner and a favorite of analytics sites like Pro Football Focus, but unless you watch Washington games every week (like I do), you probably don’t know his name. That doesn’t matter. Moreau made Larrick’s day anyway.
“He told me to lift my knees higher during high knee stretches,” Larrick said. “And then after I won the race, he told me congratulations and that I did a good job.”
For winning the race, Larrick received a Redskins football signed by Moreau. Asked if he would go to another Moreau-hosted camp, Larrick let out a resounding "yes."
That’s why Moreau gives the effort he does, he said. Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Moreau said he never got the chance to attend a camp like this himself. With West, who coached Moreau at Western High, now being the head coach at Lakewood Ranch, Moreau thought this would be a great opportunity to give today’s children the chance he always wanted but never had.
“I want to set a trend to always give back,” Moreau said. “I am blessed to be in my position. I want all these kids to experience this and more. They’re young. Let them come out here and compete and enjoy it. Give effort, dance around, laugh. Just overall have fun.”
He succeeded in his goal. Hopefully, come next summer, Moreau will hold another camp for Lakewood Ranch youth, because I can’t imagine a better pro athlete camp than this one.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.