Former Illini Malik Turner giving back with youth football camp, joined by fellow SHG Grad


(WCIA) — More than a decade ago, before his NFL career started, Malik Turner was in the same spot as the kids in the Sacred Heart Griffin gym.

“I went to a lot of camps growing up,” says Turner. “When I was a kid, it was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’ When I get into a position where I can give back, and be around the youth and show them the ways, that means a lot for me to be in the position to do that.”

The camp had to split time indoors and outdoors due to rain, but 200 kids came to the Compete Like Leek in Springfield. But Turner wasn’t the only former Cyclone and current NFL player in attendance. Current Broncos tight end Albert Okwuegbunam returned to his hometown to help too.

“It’s huge. When you have some success you always want to give back to your community,” says Okwuegbunam. “I’m really proud of Malik for setting something like this up, especially because it doesn’t seem like too long ago where we were in the same position as kids with aspirations and dreams.”

“There’s going to be guys out here that have those dreams and going to want to have those aspirations,” says Turner. “I want to be there to let them know they can do it. They can.”

The camp was for skill position players from ages 7 to 14. For long time SHG coach Ken Leonard, the passion shown is good for the future of the game.

“They’re excited about learning football, and it’s exciting to see that excitement about football because we need to promote the game,” says Leonard. “Malik and Albert is doing a great job of that.”

Turner’s visit to his hometown was brief but impactful — as he reports back to Cowboys training camp next week. In his three seasons in the NFL, Turner has recorded 265 yards, 17 receptions, and one touchdown.

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