For many, football is a path to financial success.
A small, exceptional fraction of those who pick up the pigskin will find that success through lucrative contracts with NFL squads. More often, though, it comes through development of a strong work ethic and on-field skills that will boost college applications or even help pay for school.
The Atlantic City-based Future Legends Football Academy was established in 2003 with the goal of instilling these things in local young athletes.
"It shows them the dedication they're going to need, they're going to have to have at the next level," said Kamaal Muhammad, one of the program's founders. "The work ethic that it puts in them, they can use that in the classroom. It all works together, hand in hand."
Future Legends, which offers year-round, intensive football training for kids in second to eighth grades, will hold its next session July 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pop Lloyd Stadium on Absecon Boulevard.
The group was started by coaches from the Atlantic City Dolphins youth football league as a way to get their kids ready for the next level of competition through all-season training. While the camp was created with Atlantic City athletes in mind, though, it's open to all.
Jahmil Shakur, another co-founder, is himself a testament to the professional opportunities afforded by football skills. A standout player at Atlantic City High School, Shakur was recruited to play at Trenton State College, now the College of New Jersey.
Leveraging football talent to get into college isn't easy, Shakur said, but the earlier kids start looking toward the future, the better chance they have at making it.
"There's a lot of kids that don't know that they can actually get into college, they just don't know the channels," Shakur said. "I start with trying to reach out to the kids, seventh, eighth grades, becasue they're under the radar as far as recruitment."
The camp does not make a profit and is offered by coaches as a service to the community, Muhammad said, with registration fees paying for t-shirts and camp expenses.
Karen Carpenter-Rabb, whose son Maurice has already attended two Future Legends camps this summer and will be at the July 27 camp, said it's clear the coaches aren't in it for personal gain.
"Their hearts are into it," Carpenter-Rabb said. "You have instructors from the age of 18 years old on up, so it was beautiful to see them come out and give their time for free."
At 10 years old, Maurice is far from college-aged, but it's never too early to start.
The boy still has a lot of sweating to do before he can turn his game into a college education, but his attendance is a positive step - and one that appears to be paying off.
"It was awesome, it's a great opportunity for the kids," said Carpenter-Rabb. "My son loved it. He was energized and motivated afterwards."
Contact Braden Campbell:
If you go
What: Future Legends Football Academy.
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 27.
Where: Pop Lloyd Stadium, Absecon Boulevard, Atlantic City
How much: $30
More info: See futurelegendsfootballacademy.com or call 609-453-7105.