49ers coach, players volunteer at football camp for athletes with Down Syndrome

Dustin Dorsey Image
Friday, June 7, 2019
Football camp puts athletes with Down Syndrome on display
Touchdown celebrations, big tackles and friendships were all on display at Valley Christian High School as athletes with down syndrome showed their stuff at the Football Camp for the Stars in San Jose, Calif.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Football is a sport for everyone.

That is the message sent to the more than 60 athletes on the field for the 13th Annual Football Camp for the Stars at Valley Christian High School.

The camp featured current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, former coach Steve Mariucci, as well as several other 49ers and Valley Christian players.

"This football camp, this is my start," Camp participant, Kevin Jones, said. "I'll come back in this game. I am the leader."

Valley Christian Football Coach Mike Machado got his start working with special education classes while at Saratoga High School.

Since then, he has had the privilege to work with several students with special needs on his football and baseball teams.

That's where the Football Camp for the Stars was born.

"It's a football camp, a genuine, authentic football camp for athletes with Down Syndrome," Camp founder and Valley Christian High School Football Coach, Mike Machado, said. "They love the opportunity to show their stuff. They can be the guy on the football field instead of the sidelines, the guy to be cheered for instead of the guy that's cheering for."

Now, the camp has grown to 5 locations across the United States with athletes attending the camp in San Jose from across the country as well.

"My favorite part of playing football is just knowing everyone here and learning how to play football," Camp participant Trevor Lucken said.

"My favorite part is coming here with my friends since a long time ago," Camp participant Matthew Baker said.

The Valley Christian football team donates their time to be buddies to the athletes in the camp.

In addition, the San Francisco 49ers volunteer to give back to the community that cheers for them so passionately all season long.

"I'm suggesting that he gets some of these kids on the radar because they have good measurables, they love football and they have great potential," Mariucci said. "I think some of them ought to be 49ers."

"We have some Niners here and they don't realize that they are competing for roster spots," Coach Shanahan said.

All kidding aside, the players love the opportunity to give back, because, after all, football is for everyone.

"It's important for kids to have something to be passionate about," 49ers Tight End Kaden Smith said. "Everyone here loves the game and really enjoys it. Everyone is out here running routes, having fun and meeting players and coaches."

Coach Machado loves that his players come every year to help out.

He sees it as a lesson for all who may come in contact with these stars of the gridiron.

"It is an asset for you to be able to get to know someone like this," Machado said. "It's not something you should be worried about or afraid of. You'll find out that it is far more of a blessing than it will ever be anything else."

For more information about the Football Camp for the Stars, visit their website.