A new staple of the Santa Clarita Valley is the annual Trenton Irwin free youth football camp.
The Cincinnati Bengals receiver returned to Cougar Stadium, where he scored most of his 49 touchdowns as a Hart Indian, on Sunday to host his second annual camp.
The former Indian was thrilled to return home to host his camp alongside the PO3 agency, founded by fellow Hart alumna Jessica Campbell.
Irwin and PO3 welcomed hundreds of boys and girls to his free six-hour camp, where campers worked in dozens of stations running drills with coaches and players from the NFL, Canadian Football League, Arena Football League and the NCAA.
The campers broke into several stations, where they worked on footwork, catching, strength and dozens of aspects of the gridiron game. Coaches were stationed at each drill while Irwin dashed from area to area to help out with all of them.
“When I invited people I just tried to invite people that I’ve grown up with in different levels,” Irwin said. “Some of them I played in high school with, some I played with on the Bengals, some I played with just in a passing League. I tried to keep my circle tight and my people, who I want to be a part of this. Everyone here, their character and their morals are unbelievable. So, to be able to have that for the kids for a free opportunity to hopefully make a day that’s bigger than life for them.”
Former Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns and CFL All-Star Tim White were some of the few returning coaches from Irwin’s inaugural camp last year. For White, a former Hart receiver, a close attention to detail is one of the most important things to pass on to his campers.
“Really just the attention to detail and making sure that they get around the cones making sure they’re following the details,” White said. “That’s what’s expected when you get to the higher level. As you get to higher and higher levels, the details get more important so just making sure that they understand that and making sure that you know when they lack that, that we’re able to teach it to them and allow them to have the correct fundamentals.”
White finished his 2022 all-star season with 94 catches for 1,265 yards and eight touchdowns.
White and Irwin go back over a decade to their time together at Hart. This year’s camp welcomed coaches from Irwin’s newest teammates, Bengals defensive linemen Jeffrey Gunter and Josh Tupuo.
“I came out here to represent Trent,” Tupuo said. “He’s one of the guys on our team who always does a lot for the community whether he’s here at home or in Cincinnati, so it’s always good to come out in support of one of our teammates.”
Tupuo is entering his eighth year with the Bengals. Like the other coaches, the Bengals’ nose tackle has coached dozens of camps, where the prices can be pretty high. Tupuo believes Irwin’s free camp says a lot about the receiver’s character.
“It just speaks volumes to Trent as a person,” Tupuo said of the camp being free. “He’s always trying to give back to the community… He’s definitely a standup and big-energy guy. He’s always around, in the locker room or weight room; he’s always trying to get better. A lot of guys on the team have a better respect for him because that’s who he is. He’s worked his way up to earning a spot on the team, going out there and doing what he’s had to do to play.”
Irwin felt blessed with his turnout of more than a dozen coaches coming out from around the world to help guide future football stars in his camp.
“It means a lot to do it for free and also to be able to see all my guys come in,” Irwin said. “Some guys flew in from Louisiana, some guys flew in from wherever just to be able to help support. I’m not paying them, they’re here to help support me and I’ll hopefully help support them in the future. That’s what teammates do. To be able to bring my favorite people and teach the kids, it’s unbelievable.”
Irwin has attended and coached hundreds of camps and believes the main ingredient of what can make it a great experience is the people.
“I’ve been to every camp I can think of and I tried to look at those camps and what I enjoyed the most. I think I really enjoyed the people. I think it’s 90% the people and 10% activity, so I think I could bring these people, these coaches to a bakery and we’d have a fantastic time. So, to be able to have these people that I love in my life at this camp, it’s unbelievable.”
The campers were given free lunches before heading into more drills in the afternoon. Afterward, several attendees were awarded Camper of the Day awards. The selected few were recognized for their work, skill and most importantly for Irwin, positive attitude.
“I hope the kids learn a ton of technique from the coaches because they know so much,” Irwin said. “But the thing I really want them to learn is just the attitude that they can bring to a game can make a difference. So, just have fun and live within the moment and enjoy that and not really overthink anything.”
Irwin is already amped for his third annual camp and what’s to come after his breakout year in the NFL. The receiver compiled 231 yards on 15 catches with four touchdowns in just nine games this season.