Photo/James Pugh

Year three provided every opportunity for Akeem Davis’ dream to fade out, namely Tropical Storm Cindy. Formed in the Yucatán Peninsula on June 20, 2017, the third named storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season formed out of a broad area of low pressure that developed in the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Cindy not only threatened the Gulf Coast to the shores of Louisiana with up to 10 inches of rain and gale-force winds, she tried to dampen the 3rd annual AD47 Football Leadership Academy altogether like she did to George Blair Field at R.H. Watkins Stadium.

Cindy failed in her attempt to disrupt the third year of the camp. AD47 not only remained on schedule but nearly all its camp signees showed up on time, and the soggy practice field at Laurel High School merely heightened the experience as the sun showed itself for the first time in days. 

Saturday, AD47 Football Leadership Academy kicks off for its fourth-year at Laurel High School. 

“It’s the fourth year, and it still feels new every year,” said Davis. “I’m excited about the new crop of kids that’s coming. This year the eight-year-olds we had [in year one] will be 12-year-olds now. To get out there and see how they’ve developed as young men will be an encouragement. And to see how they’ve developed as athletes will be encouraging as well.”

The camp will be open to 100 kids, ages 8-12, and last from 7 a.m. to noon. 

“I’m just excited, and our coaches are excited,” Davis added. “I feel the biz from around the community, and I’m anxious to get out there.”

Davis, who played football at Laurel High School, University of Memphis and later in the NFL (after going undrafted out of college), began AD47 in 2015. The inaugural camp featured 53 kids. It was expanded to 100 kids a year later. 

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have built a great foundation,” Davis noted. “The management has been good, the community support has been great and the kids who have attended the camp every year are phenomenal.” 

A lot has factored into the success of AD47, much of it has to do with how Davis has exemplified what he preaches.

“The thing we built the camp on – character, leadership, discipline, follow-through, finish, and grit – we’ve had to exercise every year,” said Davis. “We could have easily folded the tent and canceled out, but that’s not what we are trying to instill in these kids. When things get tough, it’s easy to stop. But we want to exemplify the kind of commitment that we want these kids to have.

“Even in my own life I’ve [had to exemplify the same kind of commitment]. Two out of the three years I’ve had this camp I’ve been a free agent going through the same principles that I’m trying to teach these kids.”

Other factors for the camp’s success has been the support of DLE Agency, an integrated media, marketing, and management firm which serves a global portfolio of athletes, personalities, and brands, as well as local Jones County businesses who financially supports the camp among other things. 

“It takes a village to support a child, and the support has been phenomenal,” said Davis. “Without our sponsors investing into this, we would not be where we are. It’s one thing to give, but when you invest, you expect to reap a harvest. This community invested so much into me that I can never pay it back, but I can always pay it forward.”

Davis is currently is a defensive graduate assistant at Southern Miss under head football coach Jay Hopson. Hopson coached Davis during his two-year stint at Memphis as a defensive coordinator. 

The AD47 Football Leadership Academy is a free, one-day, football skills camp dedicated to promoting leadership, citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. AD47 is sanctioned and insured by the NFL Foundation and facilitated in partnership with USA Football through the FUNdamentals program.