Former National Football League offensive lineman Eugene Amano paid a visit to the Panthers’ camp in hopes of encouraging the young players who were in the first through eighth grades. Amano retired after playing in the NFL for nine seasons, all with the Tennessee Titans after being a seventh-round pick by the franchise in the 2004 NFL Draft.
“I wanted to give them guidance and what to expect in the NFL,” Amano said. “When I was their age, it would have been great to have contact with an NFL player. I’m sure it was exciting for them to learn from my experiences and I like working with kids.”
Amano’s connection with Chapel Hill lies with his former college teammate at Southeast Missouri State, Justin Deshon, who took over the Panthers’ varsity program this spring.
“Justin is one of my closest friends and I was willing to come down here and help,” Amano said. “Justin has always been a knowledgeable football coach and there’s no doubt he’ll be successful at Chapel Hill. He’ll instill some discipline into the program with a well-prepared football team.”
Chapel Hill hadn’t run a football camp in several years and its revival is part of the rebuilding process for the entire program.
“I’m grateful we had a great turnout and gave back to the community building with kids that will eventually come to Chapel Hill,” Deshon said. “This camp was about footwork and working with a simple base using fundamental drills that the kids can take with them in their youth programs.”
Having a former NFL player on the field helped the camp’s mission as well, he said.
“Hopefully Eugene signified to the kids how far they can go with football,” Deshon said.
“Getting to meet a player that played in the NFL will hopefully have an impact on them. The most important thing was showing the kids that football is fun.”
The varsity team opens its 2014 campaign Aug. 29 against Cambridge.