Minnesota Vikings’ Anthony Barr returns to LA, plays host to youth camp
Anthony Barr earned NFL Defensive Player of the Week honors and became a force during his rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings. This offseason, the linebacker has impressed, again.
This time his hard work was focused in the community. On July 11, Barr held his first annual youth football camp at Loyola High School, his alma mater, in downtown Los Angeles. The goal of the camp was to teach children to enjoy the game as well as proper athletic technique and safety measures to avoid injury. Most importantly, however, Barr aimed to share the life skills that football can teach.
"The kids enjoyed interacting not only with myself, but also the other coaches," Barr said. "They got a kick out of playing with guys they either saw on TV or in the magazines. I was in their shoes not too long ago."
Barr said family, friends, coaches, ex-coaches and the individuals that helped shape his development were around to help with the event. Many of Barr’s former UCLA Bruins teammates — including Eric Kendricks, Jordan Zumwalt, Owa Odighizuwa and redshirt junior Jerry Neuheisel — stepped up to coach, too.
"They were able to come out here and give a piece of themselves and I thought that was awesome," Barr said. "I hope we can build on today. For a first time, this was a great experience for everyone involved."
Odighizuwa, selected by the New York Giants in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, noted he was looking forward to Barr’s camp for quite some time.
I hope we can build on today. For a first time, this was a great experience for everyone involved.
He credits UCLA head coach Jim Mora and the rest of his staff for helping him transition into his upcoming professional career.
"UCLA definitely prepared me," Odighizuwa said. "[Mora] is an NFL guy, he has that background. He just poured a lot of that knowledge to us. We took it and ran with it and we’re grateful for it."
Zumwalt explained many of the Bruins have a group text with "a million people in it" to maintain contact. Both Kendricks and Zumwalt, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, expressed interest in hosting their own youth football camps in the eventual future.
Kendricks, who won the 2014 Butkus Award for best collegiate linebacker, was selected by the Vikings in the second round of the 2015 draft. He is set to re-join Barr as a teammate in Minnesota next season.
"It’s a brotherhood. That’s my guy," said Kendricks, adding that he learned his work ethic from Barr. "We work hard together and we train together so I’m looking forward to playing with him again."
When Kendricks and Barr are reunited, they will play for a defensive-minded coach entering his second season, Mike Zimmer. Though the Vikings finished third in the NFC North with a 7-9 record in 2014, momentum is on their side.
Additionally, if all goes according to schedule, the Vikings are expected to brag a new stadium by the 2016 season.
Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater enters his second season as a starter with promise of development. The team also returns star running back Adrian Peterson, who played one game in 2014 due to suspension from the NFL.
"Our expectations for ourselves are really high. We know we have a lot of work to do to get to that point," Barr said. "We will take it game by game, week by week. We’ll continue to rack up the wins."