NEW BRITAIN - Byron Jones’ path to the NFL began on a field in New Britain playing for the PAL Raiders. Now, the St. Paul graduate, former UConn safety and current Dallas Cowboys cornerback is returning home to give back to the community where his football journey started.
Jones, in conjuncture with the New Britain Police Athletic League, will be conducting his first Byron Jones Football Camp for kids ages 8-14 today at the PAL Raider Facility.
“I think it’s great for the city and the youth to see an NFL player give back to the city,” said New Britain police officer Barry Hertzler, who runs the PAL program, “and let these kids know that no matter where you come from, with hard work and doing things the right way, you can make it too.”
The camp was an idea Jones had during this past season and reached out to Sergeant Matt Marino about trying to set something up. As the camp came to fruition, it quickly gained momentum.
Within the first three to four days of registration being open, more than 100 players signed up. By the end, the list grew to around 245 players from not only Connecticut, but states like Maryland and New York as well.
All together, the camp took about seven weeks to put together.
“We want to make sure this is a success,” said Marino, who also played for the New Britain PAL growing up. “It’s awesome to have someone who’s been where he’s been to come back to the city and work with the community. Everyone is really excited. We were really impressed when we had 100-plus kids sign up in the first three to four days. Byron was too. It might have caught him a little off guard.”
In addition to Jones and the PAL Raiders being there, the camp will have a number of other volunteers from the New Britain police department, Parks and Recreation and the Junior Hurricanes as well. In total, there are about 30 volunteers for the football activities.
“That was all Bryon,” Marino said. “He wanted to have his camp with both [youth football] organizations and keep both programs involved.”
After today’s camp, there are those who will be sure to ask if the Byron Jones Football Camp could be an annual event in New Britain going forward. PAL would like it to be.
“It’s exciting for him to come back to New Britain and we certainly hope this is an annual thing,” Hertzler said.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com