Former Lowndes QB Barrett hosts inaugural youth camp

·4 min read

May 16—VALDOSTA — When it comes to hosting his first youth football camp, former Lowndes star Michael Barrett came back to the right place.

Barrett's inaugural MB23 Youth Football Camp took place Saturday inside the Vikings' new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility.

Returning to where his football career jumpstarted, the Michigan Wolverine spoke about what holding his first camp at Lowndes means to him.

"I wouldn't say it started here (in this facility) — we didn't have this when I was here," Barrett said. "It's good to come back to my hometown while I've got some time off to give back to the kids. It's always been a thing for me to come back and get my own camp started up. It's a great feeling to finally be able to pop this thing off, kick it off right and the turnout was amazing. The kids are out here having fun so it's great."

As a Lowndes High School graduate, the former Viking quarterback derived inspiration from all of the youth camps he went to as a kid and during his high school career.

One of the camps Barrett identifies as most inspirational is former Viking and retired NFL player Randall Godfrey, who still runs his annual camp in Valdosta.

"Honestly, all the camps I went to growing up (inspired me to do this) — all the MVP camps, the Randall Godfrey camp, Telvin Smith and things like that," Barrett said. "I feel like that was just a big part of my growth as a person and my success in football. Being able to bring that back and do it myself, I feel like that was a big inspiration for me."

Like current Florida State tight end Jaheim Bell, who held his second camp in Valdosta April 22, Barrett also faced some obstacles in hammering out the specifics in order to make his camp a reality.

From deciding on registration fees to determining age limits, Barrett had a lot to figure out. Ultimately, Barrett's first camp was free of charge and welcomed 300 participants Saturday afternoon.

"Since this was my first one, I didn't really want to charge. I didn't know how it would go," Barrett said. "It's my first time doing everything, so I didn't want to charge people and then I end up coming out here and it's a whole bunch of BS. I just wanted to give back.

"It took a while because when I first did the registration, I didn't know the age limit. I did it so broad, from 6 to 18. I didn't know the percentage of the different ages, so that was the hardest part for me — deciding how I was going to split it up from there. Other than that, I feel like it was a pretty good turnout. I feel like all of the guys got some good work and had fun. Hopefully, we can keep this thing going."

Typically, summer football camps would take place in the south Georgia heat — specifically, in the confines of Martin Stadium; also known as the Concrete Palace.

However, Saturday was the first look for many in the Valdosta community inside Lowndes' $10M multipurpose facility complete with AstroTurf's RootZone 3D Blend HD turf system as well as the air conditioning that comes along with it.

"It's beautiful, man," Barrett said of the new facility. "I can't believe they got something like this. It feels like I'm at Lowndes University, man. They don't have too many of these anywhere else. I brought one of my guys with me from Michigan, he's from up there and he's like, 'Man, y'all treat football totally different down here.' I'm like yeah, they don't know the half, but it feels great to be in here. It's a new facility so it's great to be kind of the first event held in here. It looks nice, and it's better than being out in that 90-degree heat, I'll tell you that."

Barrett continued, "It's hard to compare facilities with Michigan because Michigan has some of the best facilities in the country. We've got the biggest stadium in the country, the biggest weight room in the country and one of the biggest indoor facilities in country, but this is probably right up there with it. I'd say it's better than our indoor. It looks better. It looks cleaner, I would say, but it's definitely up there."

With 300 players turning out for his first camp, Barrett wants to build a legacy of future stars from his hometown that go on to standout football careers like he has.

"I want the legacy of this camp to be future stars — to have all these kids come up, learning something, taking something with them, whether it be leadership or something on the football field," Barrett said. "They may go home and just learn to listen better, wherever. I want them to just take something from here, go home and be able to apply it to anything they do in life and having fun."

Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.