By BEN JOHNSON
Press Sports Editor
Ken Heupel received plenty of coaching accolades throughout his lengthy coaching career.
None compare to the satisfaction he gets from teaching young children how to become champions – either inside or outside the sporting realm.
“This is what it’s all about,” Heupel said during the Day of Champions football camp on the grounds of the Keetoowah Tribal Center on Wednesday. “I coached for 27 years – 20 at the university level – and received some honors, but this is where it’s at in my life.”
Heupel, along with former collegiate coaches and players, such as former Oklahoma Sooner and San Diego Charger, Josh Norman, taught eight- to 14-year-old children the principles of winning, using America’s most popular sport – football.
“We use the game of football to talk about principles of great leadership,” Heupel said. “The four principles are: developing discipline, establishing respect, trust and hopefully getting to the fourth, which is hard work.”
The campers showed up a little after sunrise (8 a.m.), sweating nonstop until the final drills at roughly 2:30 p.m. in the summer heat.
“These kids have worked extremely hard,” said Heupel toward the end of the camp.
The camp in Tahlequah was just one of many camps held throughout the summer by Heupel and his coaching colleagues. The Day of Champions camp is held nearly every day throughout the summer months, across Oklahoma, Texas and other states.
“We do a solid two months [of camps],” said Heupel, who noted that 100 kids attend the Tahlequah camp. “We’re in Texas, we’re in Oklahoma and we’re all across the country.”
Despite logging thousands of miles in the summer, Heupel, father of former Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel, said the majority of the camps are held in Oklahoma.
The main message that Heupel wants the kids to receive is, “how they practice and how they deal with things, they are setting a habit.”
In the end, Heupel noticed a positive quality among all the local kids.
“This morning, they disciplined up,” he said. “They are quality kids. And they’re kids that had the choice to stay at home or come here and work, and they’ve been working since 8 a.m.
“And they’re not standing around, they’re sweating.”