There was a football camp Arthur Brown went to, as a young boy, that opened his eyes to what might be.
Then another camp, as a teenager, that changed his future.
That’s why Saturday was so special to the Baltimore Ravens rookie linebacker and former Kansas State All-American.
The Wichita native spent the morning hosting his first camp as a professional — free of charge for the campers — with a bevy of famous friends, including college teammate and Kansas City Chiefs safety Tysyn Hartman, another Wichitan, and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, another former K-Stater.
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Younger brother Bryce, a second-year running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, also came out to show support and hosted his own camp Saturday evening at the Boys and Girls Club in Wichita. Arthur was taken in the second round of April’s draft by the Ravens, the defending Super Bowl champions.
“When I was in fifth grade, my brother and I went to a camp hosted by Barry Sanders in Wichita and it was the first time we’d ever been around anybody like that …it really opened our eyes to what was out there,” Arthur said. “To see the passion and the excitement in the eyes of the kids that came out to this camp is really a blessing. I’m incredibly thankful to have an opportunity to give back to a community that gave me so much.”
Arthur’s camp, the Future Elite Linebackers Camp, was held at Campus District Stadium and made possible by donations from Madrigal and Associates, Under Armour, Special T’s Screen Printing, Little Caesars in Haysville and the Potential Players Foundation, run by the Browns’ longtime mentor, Brian Butler.
The campers received a free T-shirt and lunch along with motivational speeches from Arthur and Butler, who told a story about when Arthur and Bryce were unknown teenagers at East High in the summer of 2005, when Arthur was 15 years old and Bryce was 14.
Butler wanted to get the brothers to the University of Oklahoma camp, and had called some Oklahoma assistant coaches to tell them he had the best eighth-grade and ninth-grade football players in America.
They laughed at him.
Butler turned to a longtime friend, local businessman Aaron Cunningham, and got the money to make the trip happen.
Arthur and Bryce left the camp with their first Division I offers.
“And the rest is history,” said Cunningham, who was at the camp on Saturday. “After the recognition from OU, everything changed. Then Kansas and Kansas State were looking, then all the other schools were looking.
“But that was the beginning of it all, when their parents and Brian were the only ones who really knew how good they were. It’s an American dream come true, a Wichita dream come true.”
The campers spent an hour Saturday in classroom sessions with Arthur, Hartman, Lamur and other counselors learning defensive basics like the difference between man-to-man and zone coverage.
“I told Arthur that he didn’t even know what a Cover 2 was until he was in high school, and here he’s teaching it to third and fourth graders,” Butler said, laughing. “Now, these younger ones get a head start. It’s a natural thing for all of us here because the coaches and the community we grew up in always kicked in a little bit and helped us look at things a little differently, to think about our futures. Now, we have people like Arthur and Aaron and others giving back to help these kids achieve their dreams.”
Campers spent a couple of hours on the field going through stations, where they implemented the classroom teachings in drills about snap counts, stances, pass coverage and ball pursuit.
“It was a lot of fun learning the stances, a lot of hard work,” said camper Dalton Rogers, 13, who goes to Haysville West Middle School. “Arthur is my favorite, definitely.”
Arthur reports to training camp in Owings Mill, Md., on July 21 with the rest of the Ravens’ rookies. The entire team reports on July 24.
He said he’s almost fully recovered from sports hernia surgery in early May that has limited his participation in Baltimore’s offseason training.
“I really wasn’t able to participate physically,” he said, “but the mental engagement was there, and something I can’t take lightly because I’m learning a new scheme and the focus needs to be there.”