NFL star Christian Covington returns home to host annual free football camp

Covington used his high school field at Vancouver College for his fourth camp

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This is a close up photo of Christian Covington on the football field.
PHOTO: Pranjali J Mann / The Peak

By: Isabella Urbani, Staff Writer

Christian Covington, defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers in the National Football League (NFL), hosted his fourth annual football camp on June 26 at O’Hagan Field in Vancouver. The camp ran from 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. and included a Q&A session with Covington and a few of his NFL friends, including Emmanuel Ellerbee, Whitney Mercilus, and current teammate Joe Gaziano

“I mentioned free camp for kids and a free trip, and they were like ‘sign me up,’” joked Covington about recruiting his friends. “I only bring guys that I know are going to encompass everything I stand for and everything my family stands for.”

Nearly 70 kids from ages 8–15 came out to the event to participate in a day full of football drills, repping a Chargers shirt with Covington’s number 95 on the front, before ending the day with a complimentary lunch and swagbag with snacks and custom mouthguards from the event’s sponsors. 

While the kids took to the field, spectators had an opportunity to visit the silent auction tent to bid on a variety of gifts ranging from a Nintendo gaming system equipped with two games to Nike shoes. All the gifts were either donated directly to the event or were purchased by Covington himself with all proceeds going to KidSport BC and Sunshine Kids, whom Covington works with in the States.

Although the day was full of football, the camp was open to participants of all skill levels. “I just want kids to be around professionals,” explained Covington. “This is not a day for skill development, this is not a day where you’re going to get recruited [ . . . ] no matter what you want to be, it starts with work ethic, commitment, and sacrifice. Whether it leads to football — great. Whether they want to become lawyers, doctors, it doesn’t matter, let these kids have fun.”

Running a camp has been something Covington has wanted to do since he was five years old. Growing up, Covington was no stranger to practicing with professionals. His father, Grover Covington, is a Canadian Football League Hall of Famer for the Hamilton Tiger Cats and still holds the league record for most sacks — tackling a quarterback before they can throw the ball. For Covington, it wasn’t a matter of when he would host his own camp, it was making sure that when he did, it would be “accessible to everyone in the area” no matter the cost. Although most participants signed up for the camp online, Covington specifically reserved spots for children in low-income communities in Surrey and Vancouver, who might not be exposed to football at all. But when the pandemic began, Covington had no choice but to put his plans for his next camp on hold. Nearly three years later, when restrictions started lifting in BC, Covington knew he had to seize the opportunity and return home.

“It’s been difficult,” said Covington about organizing the camp around the pandemic. “At the end of the day, I am just thankful and blessed that we were able to do something on such short notice. We didn’t really know if we were going to be able to pull this camp off.” Normally, preparations for the event would take place a year in advance. 

Entering his eighth year in the NFL and hosting his first camp since the pandemic, Covington is thankful for the opportunity to come full circle at this stage in his career. “I spent 13 years of my life here. I was at Vancouver College from Kindergarten to Grade 12. It’s very nostalgic to walk around the halls for the first time in a couple years [ . . . ] it’s humbling: knowing where I started, where I came from, and what I had to do to get to this level. I’m eternally grateful for the journey and everybody who was rooting for me.”

The event was packed with close family, friends, teammates, and current Vancouver College varsity football players who helped run stations. Among those special people in his life were his mom and dad who Covington referred to as his “prime examples.” 

His mother Natasha Covington and father Grover are most proud of their son’s kind character, particularly his “willingness to want to come back and help [his] country, province, and community with the kids,” they told The Peak. His teammate and cousin echoed the same sentiment. 

“You can tell that he means a lot to the community,” replied college teammate Ellerbee. “When you’ve reached the NFL, and you come back to your hometown to do this for the kids for free and bring other professional athletes back here, it’s phenomenal,” shared Covington’s cousin Vincent Johansson. 

With the camp behind him, Covington is already optimistic about next year’s turnout. Although 70 kids is an impressive showing, Covington hopes to expand next year’s camp to 200 kids, which the camp drew in before the pandemic. Even with a full NFL season ahead and his own personal foundation in the works, Covington will always make time to help the youth of his community.