SANTEE – Mike Williams returned home Saturday to give back to his community and do something he has never done before.
The former Clemson star and current Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver came to his alma mater Lake Marion High School as host for the inaugural Mike Williams Youth Football Camp and Community Fun Day.
Williams said having a football camp in his hometown has been a dream.
“It means a lot. I always dreamed of doing something like this. Coming out here giving back to the community and letting the kids enjoy themselves,” Williams said.
Williams attended former USC Gamecock great and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey’s football camp, which was hosted at Jeffrey’s alma mater Calhoun County High School last year.
Williams credited attending Jeffrey’s camp with sparking him to do something similar for his hometown.
“It’s something I always wanted to do. I actually attended Alshon Jeffrey’s camp last year at Calhoun County and I thought it was a good idea for me to do the same thing. So I kind of got the idea from him and just took it on,” Williams said.
Along with the hundreds of campers and citizens in attendance, there were several former Lake Marion stars, and Williams' new teammate, cornerback Marcus Edmond, who played with Williams at Clemson and recently signed with the L.A. Chargers.
Williams said he didn’t attend any camps such as his when he was growing up, which is another reason he saw the importance of hosting such an event.
“No, I didn’t have nothing like this, but I mean I wish I did have something like this,” Williams said.
If he had been able to attend a youth football camp growing up, Williams said he has an idea of how he would have taken in the experience.
“Just to go out here and have fun, that’s the main thing. Go out here and compete, have fun and just enjoy the day,” Williams said.
At the conclusion of the football activities, the post-camp community fun day began. A bouncy house, inflatable obstacle course and inflatable slide were accompanied by children's laughter, free food for all in attendance and conversation about Mike Williams.
Williams said the community fun was added to the camp to broaden the impact of the event.
“Just to get everybody together, that’s the main thing,” Williams said. “Bring out the whole community, let everybody have a good time."
“Ever since I had an opportunity to do it, I always wanted to do it,” Williams said.
“Just something I always thought about doing. I’m going to go out here and have a good time and just enjoy it as much as these kids,” Williams said.
Dr. Jesulon Gibbs-Brown, superintendent of Orangeburg Consolidated School District 3, was in attendance at the camp. She said the event is important and beneficial to the students in the district.
“This Mike Williams camp is very important because, as you know, it takes a village to raise our kids. So it’s always wonderful when one of our students comes back to the community and to the district.”
Jerry Gavin of the Holly Hill area agreed the camp is important.
“It’s very important, especially for the younger kids coming up,” Gavin said.
Gavin said he coached Williams when Williams was a child.
Gibbs-Brown said she believes the community is appreciative of Williams.
“As Mike said, this is something he always dreamed of doing should he be in the position to do so, so I’m very happy that within his first year of going to the pros, he came back home. And as you can tell by the hundreds of kids that were here, everyone is very appreciative of it,” Gibbs-Brown said.
The superintendent expressed her appreciation of Williams' willingness to give back to the community.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Mike over the past couple of years and look forward to all that he will continue to do for our students, directly giving back to them and allowing them to hear his success stories, and for them to be able to say that they had an opportunity to spend time with him,” Gibbs-Brown said.
“I’m sure there are plenty of students out there on the field with him right now that are gaining confidence, and gaining hope, and can see themselves one day being in the same position or aspire to whatever it is they plan to do. It’s not just about the athletics. He’s an inspiration for the kids in every arena of their life, and adults as well.”
Gavin echoed the same message, saying Williams is a good role model.
Williams has always been humble, which helps make him a role model for the younger children in the community, Gavin said. “I just thank God for every day because he is a really great guy."
Williams said he recognizes the importance of being a role model.
“That’s big. I feel like everybody needs an example and I feel like I’m that example for the community, so I’m just going to live up to it,” Williams said.
Williams said he hopes the campers will take away at least one main lesson from the activities.
“Just have fun. Whatever you are doing just always have fun, compete, whatever it is, just be the best at what you do,” Williams said.