For some of the nearly 100 children participating in the first Alan Cross Football Camp Saturday morning on the campus of St. Benedict, the foundation of their gridiron dreams were laid.
Host Alan Cross is a living example of hard work in football paying off to NFL success.
Cross, a Millington native, went from Trojan Shelby Youth Sports (SYS) to becoming an All-Star for the Millington Trojans to becoming the All-Time Leading Tight End at the University of Memphis.
“It feels good to get the kids out here,” Cross said. “It’s a pretty good turnout. It’s good to get them out here and teach them some fundamentals of football and really have fun.
“I just wanted to get the whole city involved,” he added. “I want to do one in Millington eventually. I wanted to put it in a location where guys from Cordova felt comfortable coming, or Germantown, Bartlett or Collierville. Wherever they wanted to come from, I feel like this is more of a neutral area. And I wanted to give it more of a feel to get the whole city involved.”
Now a member of the Tampa Bay Bucs, Cross is entering his third year as a professional football player. His road to playing for the Memphis Tigers started as a walk-on. He went undrafted and signed by the Bucs as a rookie free agent.
His former Millington teammate George Odum is enduring that journey now with the Indianapolis Colts. After wrapping up a stellar career at the University of Central Arkansas, Odum went undrafted and signed with the Colts back in April.
As children were at stations performing drills under the guidance of Cross, former Trojans and former Tigers, Odum was heading straight to the man who made it all possible.
“Old teammates, I remember when he hit me one time at practice,” Odum recalled, seeing Cross. “I was like, ‘Dang! This is for real.’ He was in the 12th grade and I was in the 10th.”
Odum has followed Cross’ path performing as a multiple-sport standout at Millington Central High School. Cross starred in basketball, baseball and football while at Millington, winning the 2011 Star Athlete of the Year.
Odum was nominated for the award as a standout in football and track, reaching the State Meet multiple years.
The latest stop for Odum has been rookie camp for the Colts.
“When I first got there, I was questioning it a little bit,” he acknowledged. “Then I started learning all the plays and getting better at secondary. I was like, ‘OK, OK, I can do this.’
“That’s when I started making more plays and bigger plays,” he continued. “The coaches told me I have a chance of making it. Kickoff return, I just really have to work on that and I should be able to make it.”
Cross has confidence in his old high school teammates.
“The best advice I can give George is know as many positions as you can,” Cross said. “I know he will be able to because he’s so athletic. And be on as many special teams as you can.
“I think George will make it because he is so athletic and he’s smart, too,” he continued. “If he can get the coaches to trust him, that’s the thing. As you learn more positions, the more they trust you. Then the more you’ll be around.”
Cross said he will emphasize to Odum to be a student of the game by taking notes and asking questions.
The children involved in the Alan Cross Camp were asking questions ranging from, “Who is he?” to “Why are we doing this?” Cross was that youth asking questions at Arkansas State University camps and those hosted by Millington native Greg Hardy.
Saturday was Cross’ turn to answer queries of future professional players.
“Guys have helped me along the way,” Cross said. “I felt like it was time to give back and get guys like Charles and all the guys I played with at Memphis out here to give their knowledge of the game. Just give back and try to get them to the next level while teaching them the little things about football.”
As Odum observed the activities, he realized he might be in a position one day to host a camp like Cross. He hopes by following in his footsteps again, he can get his Trojan jersey retired and bring a camp to Flag City.
“I’ve been straight in Indianapolis,” he said. “As long as I get my job done and do everything on my part, then that’s when the light is going to shine.
“I’m not sure about my jersey or hosting a camp but I hope so,” Odum concluded. “Only time will tell but I’m pretty sure those things can happen.”
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and sports editor for Journal West 10 Media LLC. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to email@example.com.