Camp refocuses commitment on field

Matthew Busch/The Herald
Former NFL player Jon Goldsberry, right, tried to strip away the ball from Kendrick Lain, a freshman at Tell City High School, during drills at the Southern Indiana Football and Life Skills Camp in Lincoln City on Friday. Goldsberry is a 2000 graduate of Heritage Hills and played football at Purdue University before playing for the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was the first year Goldsberry hosted the camp. For more photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer


That’s the sound that echoed through the Heritage Hills High School auditorium Friday morning as about 60 students from area schools heard from Jon Goldsberry, a 2000 Patriot alumnus who organized the weekend’s inaugural Southern Indiana Football and Life Skills Youth Summer Camp that took place at the high school.

Goldsberry earned a scholarship to Purdue University, though he drastically tore his right knee during practice his freshman season; he played running back and defensive back for the Patriots before then-Boilermaker coach Joe Tiller told Goldsberry he’d be competing for a linebacker spot with Purdue. After the knee injury, doctors didn’t think Goldsberry would ever play again, though he came back a year and half later and then competed in the National Football League for the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He now works in marketing for Jasper-based National Office Furniture, also boasting about 50 clients for whom he does freelance work.

Goldsberry knew he wasn’t going to play football forever and he snapped his fingers to emphasize the point that the opportunity to compete can be taken away at any given moment. That’s why he and other speakers stressed the importance of focusing just as much off the field as on it.

Toward the end of his talk, Goldsberry said, “Control what you can control: your effort and your attitude.”

A handful of speakers, including 2012 Forest Park graduate and incoming Harvard sophomore tight end Ben Braunecker, addressed the students. Braunecker offered insight about making the transition to college. He talked of trying to gain a balance between academics and athletics, telling the kids what they do during their last four years in high school or in college most likely will determine how successful they’ll be in the next 40 years.

Included in the crowd were parents and Heritage Hills varsity coach Todd Wilkerson.

“I think what was great about Jon’s camp — not just the football drills but sitting there in the auditorium and hearing those guys speak about things like academics and work ethic and communicating to those kids that football is going to stop and preparing yourself to be ready for that and preparing yourself for other aspects of life,” Wilkerson said.

Fourteen coaches, including Heritage Hills graduates Seth Johannemann and Kyle Lambeck, oversaw the camp, which was open to students entering grades seven through 12 and featured the players finishing speed and agility drills Friday and Saturday. At one point Friday, Goldsberry was in charge of a drill for running backs in which they stepped over bags while trying to hold onto the ball as Goldsberry hacked away. He told them to not cross over their legs, instead keeping them up and down, mimicking a sewing machine. One player needed to redo the drill twice, but that was all right. Goldsberry and the other coaches continually told the kids that proper technique trumped a quick finish.

“The camp went great,” Goldsberry said. “We had a lot of good feedback from several of the parents.”

Competitiveness, attitude and effort were three main themes Goldsberry and the other coaches drilled into the campers. During his talk Friday morning, Goldsberry mentioned the 5-5 record the Patriots finished with last season. He didn’t sound pleased.

“My main focus is the game has changed a lot and kids have changed a lot and I noticed it a lot at Heritage Hills over the last five years, maybe even 10,” Goldsberry said beforehand about the motivation for organizing the camp. “It’s really just focusing on the little things and putting in the extra effort to find a way to win and compete and be better than your opponents. I think we’ve lost a little bit of that over the last few years.”

The camp wasn’t an official Heritage Hills football-related event, though Wilkerson and his predecessor, Hall of Fame coach Bob Clayton, both assisted. Goldsberry said Wilkerson was “a huge help” as he ensured the campers could use the Patriots’ equipment and practice on their fields.

Clayton was involved, too, giving the talk that ended the camp Saturday. Goldsberry said he didn’t want Clayton to rekindle the type of passionate speech he gave to the Patriots before they played rival Jasper during Goldsberry’s freshman year — that might have scared off the campers, Goldsberry noted, laughing — but he wanted Clayton to deliver the type of message that would instill excitement within the campers. That’s exactly what happened.

Goldsberry said Clayton fired up the campers, as the coach “explained why guys like us are successful. It was really good; he got them excited.”

Given his background, Goldsberry often is asked when he is going to start coaching. That still hasn’t happened, but organizing a camp was something he had considered previously. He almost did it last year, but he needed surgery after feeling his knee swell up and become hot. He had two previous operations, though some leftover cartilage was found still floating around and needed to be removed after the pain resurfaced.

He didn’t want to rush anything or throw together something in last-minute circumstances. As Goldsberry said, “I didn’t want to run a camp just to run a camp.”

But this year worked out and met his expectations. Goldsberry plans to hold the camp again next year, with the hope of bringing back some of the same coaches and possibly adding Heritage Hills alum Jay Cutler as a camp coach in the future.

As the camp wound down, players were divided into groups and competed to see who could run the fastest 40-yard dash. Incoming Heritage Hills sophomore Kenton Crews snagged first place, running close to a 4.6. Goldsberry noted that’s a great time, especially considering Crews ran in sweltering heat and on grass.

That the oldest or most experienced kid didn’t take first place sort of made sense. Before the campers started drills Friday, Indianapolis Chatard and Purdue graduate Ryan Baker told them their age didn’t matter. Everyone was a leader, starting right then.

Competitiveness. Trying to be the best on the field. It all tied into the point behind getting everyone together over the weekend and the biggest reason Goldsberry plans to do this all over again in years to come.

“I really want to instill that character and leadership to let them know what it takes get there and what it takes to have success in life after football,” he said.

Contact John Patishnock at

More on