CHAMPAIGN – University of Illinois football player Tailon Leitzsey and more than two dozen of his Illini teammates are holding a free camp for kids ages 6-13 on July 17 at Zahnd Field in Champaign.
Leitzsey, a senior from Laurel, Md., graduated with a degree in Kinesiology in Dec. 2020 and was put on scholarship in April of this year after walking on to the team in 2018.
“Growing up, my parents always taught me leave a place better when you can,” he said. “I feel like my first couple years here, I didn’t really do that. I was just kind of going with the flow, being a student, being a student-athlete, and that’s not who I am.
“I wanted to do something to impact, to change somebody else’s life, not just mine. And so that’s kind of my goal with this is to leave this place better than when I came here. You know, you never know, this experience could literally change the trajectory of one child’s life, you know, so. That’s my main goal.”
Leitzsey says he’s noticed an uptick of violence in the community since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, especially among youth.
“Since COVID started, it’s been a lot of shootings in this area. The one that really kind of, like touched my heart was, I saw a 14-year-old boy had just killed somebody. That was hard for me to see because his life’s never gonna be the same, he’s never going to get that experience of how children should grow up, all because of a bad decision he made.
“I really just kind of wanted to do something, I know I have a platform being a Division-I football player. So you know, why not use that as a way to connect to the kids and be able to get an opportunity to work with them doing something that I love, which is football, and being able to share that experience with them. But also, if they want, to share my life experience as well.”
Attendees are encouraged to bring athletic attire, cleats and water bottles.