Tennessee Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard stood in front of the cameras on Saturday, his shirt drenched in sweat as his 16Ways Foundation Football Camp came to a close with pizza and autographs.
"We want to help change these kids' lives in a positive way," he said as the kids, aged 8-14, milled about, scarfing down pizza and joking with the camp's coaches.
"We focus heavily on no bullying, and most importantly, getting your schoolwork done."
Wesley's camp focuses not just on football fundamentals, but instills life lessons through encouragement and testimonials from the more than a dozen professional players, high school and youth league coaches who took the time to spend it with the kids.
Never miss a local story.
Woodyard's mission is to persuade the kids to become good citizens of the community.
"It's good to be able to plant seeds in the community that I went to school in and to see these kids grow up," he said.
The hope for Woodyard is to be recognized not just for his play on the football field, but for changing the game that he loves in a positive way.
Also changing for the better, says Woodyard, is his alma mater, the University of Kentucky. He took a drive around the not-yet completed Commonwealth Stadium and was impressed with the direction of the program.
It almost makes him want to come back and play.
"It feels good to see the progress," he said. "Everybody's buying in and Coach Stoops is doing some good things. I'm just excited to see the future success that they're going to have."
Woodyard went as far as to make a prediction about the upcoming UK season — a bold prediction.
"I feel they could easily get eight wins this year," he said. "I feel like they'll get in a good bowl. I would like to see them in a BCS bowl."
More pressing for Woodyard, though, and his Titans teammate and fellow ex-Cat Avery Williamson, who showed up to support Woodyard, is the upcoming NFL training camp. Last season was a disappointment for Tennessee. The Titans finished 2-14 and rode a 10-game losing streak into the sunset. New additions, however, such as Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau have put pep in Woodyard's step.
"Dick is one of the smartest coaches I have been around," he said. "For him to get up and explain to us why we run certain defenses and where they came from, and why he created defenses, it's amazing to be around a guy like that."
The optimist in Woodyard bubbled up again as he predicted that the Titans, too, would make the postseason behind Mariota.
"It was good to see him throw," Woodyard said. "He's still a rookie. He's got to warm up to it, but he made some plays out there that opened my eyes up. I think he's going to be a pretty good quarterback."
Woodyard has yet to intercept Mariota in practice, but plans on doing it in summer camp, "where it counts."
As the crowds dwindled and the parking lot at Bryan Station High School emptied out, the people who remained were Woodyard's support system — coaches, friends and teammates. A bond, he said, that he wants the kids to learn.
"We're just trying to build that," he said. "You can go through a camp and you might see a coach in a drill ... talking to a kid, giving the kid a life experience or telling a story. We might even catch a guy giving a testimonial. That's what it's all about. It's not about football, it's about how can we change these kids."