The Sequim Middle School football team hosted its first annual camp, and brought in a special treat for the 50 kids in attendance: Wayne Hunter, a former Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman and 11-year NFL veteran.
Hunter, who says he’s currently a Seattle firefighter and who last played in the NFL in 2012, wanted not just to impart his significant on-field knowledge but also some real-life lessons to the kids.
“This is an opportunity for you guys,” Hunter told the attendees as the camp started. “(It’s) an opportunity not just to learn a lot about this game, but on how to work hard to seize opportunities in life. It’s about effort, it’s about having a good work ethic on the field and off it.
“But the biggest thing I can tell you? Just be good people. Be good to each other. Be good to yourselves. Be the kind of people that you want to see.”
Hunter, who said that he’s “probably done hundreds of these camps” since retiring, told the Gazette that “as cliché as it may sound,” helping lead football camps like this one are about giving back to kids and communities.
“I’ve learned so much in my life and career,” he said, “that it doesn’t make sense for me not to share it when I can. What good is this knowledge if I don’t use it and pass it on?
“Watching these kids figure things out and learn and step up is worth all the work.”
Hunter and ex-Washington State University defensive end Logan Tago joined SMS football coach Sam Salanoa and his staff in leading the players through various drills, with the players mostly concentrating on helping the offensive and defensive line drills, but not afraid to give input where they could elsewhere across the camp.
“I’ve known Sam and the family a long time, so I wanted to give back to him and to these kids,” Tago said. The American Samoa-born player was in Seahawks mini-camps earlier in the offseason after going undrafted in April, but is currently without a team, so he was glad to drive up the two hours from Tacoma to help the camp.
“This is the first camp like this hosted by someone from the NFL on the peninsula,” Salanoa said. “This is huge for the kids, and we wanted to give them the best opportunity we could.”
Salanoa, also known as “Sambreezie,” was thrilled with how the camp turned out.
“For the first time we’ve done this, it went great,” he said after the camp. “Wayne was blown away by the kids. A lot of them went up to him on their own and shook his hand and thanked him for coming out. He said he hardly ever has that happen at these kinds of camps.”
After the camp, Hunter and Tago spent time talking to the kids a little less formally and signed their camp shirts and other memorabilia that they brought, then the kids were taken out to the Seven Brothers restaurant at the 7 Cedars Casino, who sponsored the camp, for lunch.
“The casino footed the bill, and the kids definitely at their fill,” Salanoa laughed.
Salanoa is already making plans on a second edition of the camp next summer.
“We’ll probably do it a little earlier next year, but we’re hoping to have at least 100 kids, and maybe include the high school and youth teams too,” he said. “Wayne has already said he’ll be back, and he’ll bring more players too.”