BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A happy kid at camp - running, throwing, and catching the pigskin with a smile - is where it all begins for so many of our high school football players.
That’s what we found Saturday morning on the Bluff at Southern Lab. Former Kitten and LSU Tiger Chuck Wiley held his 17th annual Bayou All-Stars Camp for Kids to promote football, cheerleading, and a healthy lifestyle. His foundation, 99 Wayz to Win, partners with USA Football to help bring a great experience to the youth and it’s all for free.
Wiley was a 1992 Southern Lab graduate who then went on to LSU before being picked in the third round in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. While he resides in Atlanta now, he knows the people in Baton Rouge helped lay a successful foundation for his life, which he hopes the camp does for others.
“What keeps me coming back is the community and the love," said Wiley. "We’ve been doing this 17 years. I’m blessed to have that opportunity to come back and give something back to our community. This is where we grew up; this is where we live and we need to take pride in it. We’re going to continue to take pride in it and continue doing things to reach out to our kids. If nothing else, I want to be that light that says it can be done. You can live in Banks, you can grow up in this neighborhood, and you can still make it. You can do whatever you want to do when you put your mind to it; some hard work and some effort to it.”
One kid who participated in the camp five years ago is none other than 2019 Southern Lab graduate and current LSU freshman Kardell Thomas. Saturday, he shared what it’s finally like to be heading into his first college football season and the impact he thinks his freshman class could have.
“Really, the most exciting part has just been finally being here," said Thomas. "I’ve been committed four years, since I was 15 years old, so just finally being a part of the family has been great. We look like a different beast with the whole freshman class coming in and then, us combining with the guys already been here, we’re a different beast.”
Thomas signed with the Tigers back in December and just made his way to campus 12 days ago.