Jags' Telvin Smith: Players who charge for youth camps lost touch

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith has some harsh words for NFL players who charge a fee to attend their youth football camp.

"Y'all suckers," he said.

Smith doesn't believe that kids should have to pay to attend those camps -- he doesn't charge a fee for his -- and said that players who do charge a fee, even a nominal one, have lost touch with what he called the "humble gratitude" that allowed them to reach the NFL.

Smith, who made those comments in a short video on Instagram, said in a phone interview with ESPN that he wasn't calling out any specific player. However, he did say he felt that players charging for youth camps are essentially robbing the community.

"I keep saying robbing these kids because I feel that's what we're doing," Smith told ESPN. "We're in the NFL. We're in a multibillion corporation. You can write that off on your taxes, but you're charging these kids? There's no part of it that's right.

"Your heart's not in the right direction when you're doing that."

Smith wanted to be clear that he wasn't calling out any player in particular and that he wanted to make sure people understood he isn't talking about the multiday or overnight intense instructional camps. Camps such as those, which require the campers to be housed and fed, can cost close to nearly $1,000 per camper. Specialty companies run many of those types of camps, which bear the names of the sponsoring players.

Smith said he's talking about the camps that usually last three to four hours, where it's more about the experience of meeting an NFL player than learning football skills. Those camps should be free, Smith said, and there are ways to defray the cost. NFL players can apply for $1,000-$4,000 grants from the National Football League Foundation to help fund their camps. In addition, players are able to secure sponsors to help cover costs, such as local restaurants to provide lunches and drinks.

Smith said he did that last year for his first camp in his hometown of Valdosta, Georgia, in which he said he had more than 500 kids show up. He's finalizing details for this year's camp to be held in mid-June.

"Guys can reach out to the community and they'll donate food, they'll donate money, they'll donate water," Smith said. "We had so many things donated we had so much left over.

"... That's how I know it can be done. I had to buy extra shirts. But I'm willing to do that because we're buying these designer clothes and cars and jewelry and then you can't give $600 or $2,000 extra out of your pocket to make sure a couple extra kids come to your camp? I'm going to make sure I've got that."

Smith said athletes have a responsibility to give back to the community and there are a lot of kids who can't afford to pay to attend a camp.

"That's wrong," Smith said. "You're not giving back to the community. You're taking from the community."

Many players do hold free camps. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' foundation partnered with local companies to host free one-day kids camps in Orlando and Jacksonville. Cincinnati quarterback A.J. McCarron and San Francisco safety Jaquiski Tartt each have held free camps for kids in Alabama.

Last July, Miami's Mike Pouncey and Pittsburgh's Maurkice Pouncey held their sixth annual Pouncey Twins Football Camp in Lakeland, Florida. More than 800 kids attended the free camp, held in conjunction with the Lakeland Police Athletic League.

Tennessee defensive end Jurrell Casey held a free camp for offensive and defensive linemen last July in Long Beach, California. That same month Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett held a free camp in Hawaii and criticized Golden State's Steph Curry for charging $2,000 to attend his camp in Hawaii.

"You've got to remember where you came from at the end of the day," Smith said. "C'mon, man, stop thinking we're more than what we are."