By Eric Crawford, WDRB Sports
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When you’re a college football player a couple of weeks from the start of camp, days off are like gold. You know there won’t be many more in your immediate future.

Still, a good many University of Louisville football players volunteered to spend a chunk of a Saturday off in The Trager Center practice facility, conducting football drills and signing autographs for kids from Norton Children’s Hospital and elsewhere who have suffered significant illnesses.

The program calls it Courage Camp. And when the call comes from Louisville Fellowship of Christian Athletes chaplain Chris Morgan, he has no trouble finding volunteers.

“Most of us aren’t doing anything anyway,” running back Dae Williams said. “So when Chris calls asking us to do it, it’s our pleasure. Mine especially. It’s a great experience. You’re getting to do something for these kids. We love doing this type of thing. We work and grind all the time. So when we get to do something like this – look at guys – everybody has a smile on their face.”

Players aren’t the only ones. Kids go through various stations, receiving, tackling, agility, passing. Take a look at the reactions and they go from initial uncertainty to complete fascination.

After the drills and a video shown by Louisville football, the kids got sheets of paper and could go get players’ autographs. I noticed a couple of boys who were more interested in a TV interview WDRB’s Katie George was dong. When the interview was over, she handed them the microphone, and 7-year-old Kaleb Smith, with 7-year-old Elijah Duffin, said this: “All these Louisville players, they’re like my brothers.”

Duffin interjected: “Some of them are pretty crazy.”

“And some of them have good dance moves,” Smith said. “. . . I would come back and just hug them and say thank you for letting us be here and thank you Louisville, thank you for Bobby Petrino and thank you for bringing these kids here and showing the talent that they’ve got.”

Sign that kid up.

Running back Malik Williams, a couple of weeks earlier, was one of a group of Louisville players that took part in a cancer retreat run by former Louisville player and current assistant coach Pete Nochta. Those kids are in more serious condition.

“There are kids who have a week or two to live, but they are there to have fun and have their best life before they pass,” Williams said. “It saddens my heart, but it makes you want to do everything you can for them.”

It’s not just a good program for kids, but for parents, many of whom get no time away from the strain of their children’s illnesses. But the chance to watch them dance or smile or run and jump is, in itself, a small kind of break.

“These kids deserve it,” Dae Williams said. “They’re going through things every day that a lot of us can’t imagine. So to see them get excited in a drill or doing a touchdown dance, I love to see the smiles.”

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