Georgia Southern Football’s Derrick Canteen gives back with the camp

In the age of NIL (name, image, likeness), many college athletes are earning endorsement deals and earning real money for the first time in their lives.

Georgia Southern soccer star Derrick Canteen is using the new rules to his advantage, but he’s not appearing in ads or on billboards. He gives back to where he grew up.

Canteen held his second annual youth football camp at Evans High School over the weekend and talking to him, it’s obvious his passion lies within.

“A lot of high school students were at youth camp last year, so I’m excited to see this group and see their growth in a year,” he said. “The short time I’ve been doing the camp and seeing the numbers almost double is inspirational to me. It’s working and I want to continue, improve and learn more about the Augusta area and invest in the children.

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Those numbers, which were over about 70 attendees a year ago, were well over 100 this time around. With the support of sponsors, it was also free for each of the campers. The time between the first and second camp allowed him to learn a lot about the process, to streamline and improve the experience.

Part of this was to split the day into two different age groups. The morning started with the youth camp, made up of elementary and middle school students, while the high school students had their time in the afternoon.

“Supporting age groups has helped a lot because you separate the talent and show what level they are at,” he said. “There is a big difference between a primary school student and a middle school student. Just by separating it, I feel like they were able to have more fun competing with their size and age.

A feature of these camps is the familiar faces of the coaches. This time, Canteen was able to bring in a few other Georgia Southern players, as well as some CSRA guys. Perhaps most important, literally and figuratively, was Cincinnati Bengals lineman D’Ante Smith, a Grovetown graduate.

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Georgia Southern quarterback Brooks Pangle (Greenbrier ’22) and Savannah State halfback Joseph Hampton (Evans ’22) were also on the coaching staff.

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“That’s the most important part – seeing guys who are from this area,” Canteen said. “It makes them believe that they can come from this area, to see guys who have played in this high school and in high schools in the area.”

Canteen was a threat on both sides of the ball for the Knights before signing with Georgia Southern in December 2018. He went on to earn All-American honors as a rookie with the Eagles. His time on the court, however, came to a halt after he tore a pectoral muscle last year against Florida Atlantic.

“I like football, but I like playing football (more). I was around the game and helping the guys, but I learned a lot,” he said. “I’m looking forward and hungry to get back on the pitch. I’m just going day to day.

Now healthy ahead of the season, he said the buzz around the program with new coach Clay Helton and his team is undeniable.

“I think the buzz and the energy is just awesome,” he said. “Everyone is excited and eager to see how things go. Every day we come in we know we are going to work hard, the coaches and staff are going to push us everyday, harder than some of us were never pushed in. The leaders are mobilizing and everyone is coming together.

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