ELKHART — Nathan Palmer remembers going as about a seventh grader to a Chicago Bears training camp event.
“They were moving us around station to station, but I just stayed by the receivers the entire time,” the Elkhart native and second-year Indianapolis Colts wide receiver recalled Wednesday, June 19.
“We got back home about 6 in the evening, and my friend (Monty Marion) and I, we walked over to Pierre Moran and I just kept doing every drill I learned that day,” Palmer said. “That day encouraged me.”
While full circle might not be an ideal route for a receiver, it could describe Palmer’s journey as it relates to that memorable seventh grade experience and an event that will take place this weekend.
On Saturday, June 22, Palmer will host his own inaugural football camp, and it will be at none other than Pierre Moran Middle School, where Palmer kept practicing those drills.
Further, it was Elkhart’s Clarence Thomas, one of Palmer’s mentors, who took him and about a dozen other boys from the Tolson Center to that Bears event, and it’s also Thomas who has helped Palmer plan his own camp.
“He’s a guy that ran a lot of youth programs that I attended when I was younger,” Palmer said of Thomas. “It’s because of him and because of some other figures in our community, and some older athletes from our community, that I was inspired.”
Palmer has places in Indianapolis and Chicago, but said he still considers Elkhart home and spends “a lot of time” here. His parents, Joe and Fern, as well as other family and plenty of friends remain here.
He has returned to Elkhart to address elementary school students, and he’ll be working with kids again Saturday.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to our community,” said Palmer, who has been planning Saturday’s event for several months. “Going around to schools, the camp, I just want to ignite a sense of excitement.”
The former Elkhart Central and Northern Illinois star says he benefits from the interactions as well.
“Children keep you young,” the 24-year-old Palmer said. “They’re so innocent, haven’t been jaded. The dream’s still there. Sometimes when you get older, you lose the dream a little bit as reality sets in. I want them to dream big.”
Since it’s the first one, and because on-site registrations will be accepted the day of the event, Palmer says he’s not sure what the turnout will be for his camp, but adds that he’s prepared for a wide range.
The on-site registration fee has been dropped to $35, same as advance registration.
“I’m not too stern on the price,” Palmer said. “That’s just to cover some of the expenses involved and there are (scholarships available).”
The camp will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and includes a T-shirt and lunch.
Palmer is expected to be joined in providing instruction by another ex-Blue Blazer and NIU receiver in Marcus Perez, now a local firefighter, as well as a variety of other individuals.
He’s also “trying to get a real special guest to come, but I don’t want to say his name in case he’s unable to show up with his schedule.”
Palmer himself has assisted at events featuring Colts Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea and former Bear fullback Jason McKie.
Some of the areas he plans to cover during his camp include football drills, speed development and leadership development.
“It’s going to be some of both,” Palmer said of whether motivational talks or Xs and Os will be emphasized. “It’s about showing the kids the fundamental basics of football, especially the younger ones, some things about stretching and being flexible, warming the body up, but I also want to talk about things I’ve learned from my parents and other people. There will be a pep talk about the importance of grades and how that translates to sports.”
Next up for Palmer after the camp is the continuation of his own offseason training in Chicago.
He’ll also continue working on an independent music project — Palmer sings, and can play percussion, piano and bass guitar — before heading to Anderson for Colts training camp in late July.
What: Nathan Palmer and Friends Football Camp.
Who: Open to all students entering grades 3-8.
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 22,
Where: Pierre Moran Middle School, Elkhart.
Cost: $35 (on-site day-of registrations accepted).
More information: Email email@example.com for more information or to ask about scholarships and group rates.