Rolling Out

Expansion of inner-city football camp focuses on life skills and empowerment

Photo Credit: LaToya Cunningham

Tis the season for football camps, NFL drafts and signing days. While most inner city students may be trying to find their way, founders of Sound Mind Sound Body (SMSB) Football Academy are on track to change their direction. The annual football camp originated in metro Detroit and has now expanded nationwide. This is not your ordinary football camp, which is why they are ranked the #1 camp in America. SMSB develops these young boys into men, inside and out.

Rolling out sat down with Curtis Blackwell, co-founder of SMSB, Michigan State Spartans director of College Advancement and performance camp director, on the importance of founding the camp, expansion and what the future holds for SMSB.


What is Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy and what was the motivation to begin the academy in 2004?
Sound Mind Sound Body (SMSB) is a sports academy that uses football to teach high school students how to apply equal amounts of energy and focus to academics, athletics and life skills development to earn college scholarships.  The number one goal of SMSB is to ensure that each participant realizes they are “more than an athlete”.  The SMSB program was created because no football camp focused on player development.  SMSB allows inner city students to access college while making sure they don’t focus solely on being an “athlete “or making it to the NFL.  The program was created 12 years ago & over 12,000 students have completed the SMSB academy while 2,000 SMSB participants have earned college scholarships.

Why did you feel this was an important vehicle for high school athletes in metro Detroit?
Detroit was and still is one of the most financially distressed cities in America and over 20 high schools have closed in the last 15 years. The athletic programs in Detroit have little to no resources.  SMSB was a solution for the community to keep hope alive in Detroit. SMSB was our way to show youth that if you work hard in spite of what’s happening around you good things are possible.  Every year SMSB brings hundreds of college coaches to Detroit and these coaches inspire youth to work hard both on and off the field and most importantly offer scholarships.  For the youth and their parents instead of traveling to multiple camps across the country they can see all the coaches on one trip at 1 camp SOUND MIND SOUND BODY.

The NCAA recently reinstated the use of satellite football camps. How did that affect SMSB?
The NCAA ruling allowed coaches at FBS power five institutions to attend the SMSB camp. If the ruling was not made there would have been less college coaches at each SMSB academy.

What are some of benefits of the academy for young black males and their future in athletics and beyond?
The greatest benefit of SMSB is students receive life skills development which is not being provided at any camp and most high schools for the most part.  SMSB provides life skills sessions on the following areas: STD awareness, Domestic Violence, Drug and Gun awareness, Gratitude, Networking, NCAA eligibility, and “What it takes to make it.”

These sessions are what separate SMSB from all other camps in America. The presenters that deliver the messages are what make the biggest impact on SMSB attendees from motivational speakers to college head coaches, professional and collegiate football players, the delivery of the SMSB content is what makes it so special.  The content at SMSB is needed for young black males as it’s either graduate or die/go to jail. They just can’t waste their talents “trying” to be just a “football player” and become another casualty in the ‘hood if they don’t “make it to the league.”

You have added
Washington D.C., Tampa, Houston, Atlanta and Los Angeles to your 2016 rotation for the camp. Why was it so important for you to expand into other cities?

The message of SMSB was so powerful that various community advocates from around the country started bringing students to Detroit to participate in the program.  After seeing how much growth occurred in Detroit we decided that expanding to additional markets only made sense so that students around the country could participate.

What is your formula for success with SMSB in becoming the number one football academy across the country?
The SMSB formula for success is life skills, parent engagement and classroom/chalk talk along with on field student competition equal success. These components of the SMSB program separate us from all other camps in America. Our ability to tie it all together.

SMSB is more that just football. What other key elements do you offer with SMSB that high school football students cannot get at other football camps?
The STD awareness, Domestic Violence, Drug and Gun awareness, Gratitude, Networking, NCAA eligibility, and “What it takes to make i”t sessions are what separate SMSB from all other camps in America.

Do you see a change in the behavior of the young students you reach? And how do you stay in contact with the students and parents after the camp is complete?
Yes, sometimes students make immediate changes. After attending our SMSB social media session they change their Twitter handles before they leave the room.  Our mobile app, Winter camps, Monthly Conference Call and monthly newsletter allow us to stay connected after the camp ends.

What does the future hold for SMSB Football Academy?
The future of SMSB is our mobile app and our national showcase set to launch in 2017. We also are expanding our middle school program.

Share your best success story that came out of the football academy.
The best success story of SMSB is Desmond King and Arjen Colquhoun.  When Desmond attended the camp he had no offers.  He also had limited resources coming from a single parent home.   He was only able to camp at SMSB. He met the Iowa football coaches at SMSB and then a week before signing day they offered. Last year Desmond won the Jim Thorpe award given to the Top Defensive Back in America.  He also returned to Detroit to work and speak at the 2016 Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Detroit.

Arjen was from Canada, no exposure playing internationally in a small town.  He attended the 2011 SMSB and was offered by Michigan State.  Had he not came to America for the SMSB camp the Michigan State Spartans may have never found out about him.  Last year he graduated and started the entire season leading Michigan State to the Big 10 Championship.  He just recently signed a NFL contract with the  Dallas Cowboys.

To learn more about the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy, visit or follow them on Twitter @SMSBFootball.

See photos below.

Photo Credit: LaToya Cunningham

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