Dickson bringing elite football camp to Maui
ESPN 300 set for July 2 at King Kekaulike
Jojo Dickson saw a huge need and decided to do something about it.
The former Baldwin High School, University of Idaho and professional football player has spearheaded an effort to get an ESPN 300 football camp to Maui, and more than a year’s worth of work will come to fruition when the camp takes place on July 2 at King Kekaulike Stadium.
“It’s exciting, I mean, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Dickson said Saturday. “I think the inspiration leads all the way back to the Just Win Camp when I was in high school. I attended that camp for two years in a row and we had a great time.
“I just thought it was so cool to have pretty much all the best players in the state there competing and learning. I always wanted to bring something like that back here.”
After graduating from Baldwin in 2007, Dickson was a standout linebacker for the Vandals from 2007-11 and then chased his dream of pro football for more than four years.
He spent time with several NFL franchises on practice squads or offseason rosters, but never quite hooked on for long and never played in an NFL game.
He also signed contracts with teams called the Omaha Nighthawks and Omaha Mammoths.
“About four years bouncing around — in that time I played for five different teams. I was with Jacksonville, the Browns, the Jets, the Cardinals and the Chiefs,” Dickson said. “In between, I played in a couple different leagues as well — the UFL, the ex-XFL, a couple of leagues that are no longer around, but I went through the ringer of pro leagues and had a tremendous amount of opportunities.
“Unfortunately things never worked out the way I had dreamt of, but I walked away comfortable, felt like I gave it my all and did my best. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. My last team that I played for was up in Canada — I played for the BC Lions, didn’t really enjoy it much, decided from there that I’d be done.”
When he came home from British Columbia in 2015, he “found out that my wife was pregnant and I’ve been home ever since.”
Now, he and wife Amber have three daughters — Kailina, 5, Kawela, 3, and Kawai, 3 months.
“I’m outnumbered in this household, let me tell you,” Dickson said.
Now, Dickson runs a training program for local athletes call Dickson Performance. He worked with The UC Report and ESPN to bring the event labeled the ESPN300 Elite Hawai’i Camp.
“Coming home, realizing how little we have, haven’t seen many camps or clinics come this way,” Dickson said. “I think the last big football camp was about 12 years ago now and I think at one point in time it felt almost impossible to do something like that.
“Having COVID and still working with kids during that time, seeing them not having seasons and being very limited in sports and athletics, what kind of toll that took on them, it kind of pushed me over the edge to go and pursue doing something like this.”
The camp is for athletes 13-17 years old and is full, but Dickson intends to make it an annual event.
“I reached out to my old college coach, Rob Akey, and asked him for some advice — he led me to his recruiting coordinator, who led me to The UC Report,” Dickson said. “I reached out to The UC Report, the founder and CEO Billy Tucker, and I kind of explained to him: ‘We have very little here, but we’ve got a lot of talent, got a lot of kids eager to play. I think you could do something special for them.’ And he was all for it.”
It has caught the eye of one of the few Maui players currently chasing professional football, USFL Michigan Panthers linebacker Mo Vainikolo, a Maui High graduate.
“It’s going to be a camp for the Hawaii kids — I think it’s probably one of the first big camps that Maui has had,” Vainikolo said last week. “It’s an ESPN 300 camp, so it’s really good for exposure. I encourage all the parents to get their kids out there.”
The effort started a little over a year ago and now it is reality.
“Here we are now just about ready to put it together,” Dickson said. “Camp is happening July 2nd, so we’re getting the fine details done now. We’ve got 350 kids registered for it. It’s a big deal.
“I kept myself in mind, my former self, my high school self. … Knowing what I know now, if I had this back then what would I want? I’d want a camp where I can compete with the best, but also get max exposure. So, that’s exactly what this is.”
Added Dickson: “With the new rules we can’t exactly have college recruiters at private camps. So, The UC Report is probably the next-best thing. They’re an NCAA-compliant recruiting service, they’re the top one in the nation — they work with 110 Division I schools and about 100 lower-level schools.”
Measurements such as height, weight, arm length and wingspan will be taken. All participants will be outfitted with the latest Under Armour products.
Headshots and profile photos will be taken to post on The UC Reports database and utilized for espn.com content.
A seminar will be held where all participants will have the opportunity to learn about the recruiting process.
An NFL combine-style testing and drill segment will conclude the camp. High definition video will be captured on all drill work and 1-on-1’s for college coaches to evaluate.
Combine results will be sent directly to the athlete through a free app following the event. Media members from ESPN, Rivals and 24/7 Sports will be at each event to evaluate and interview prospects.
“They provide how to conduct yourself on social media, how to build your highlight tape, what camps to attend, how to go about your business in being recruited,” Dickson said. “I’ve seen profiles they’ve created for other players and it’s some of the most in-depth profiles I’ve ever seen.”
Tom Luginbill, the national recruiting director for ESPN, will be in attendance, Dickson said.
“They do their job, this is what they do,” Dickson said of The UC Report. “They’re awesome, they’re affiliated with ESPN, Under Armor, Gatorade. And so not only do the kids get coverage, they get exposure to recruiters directly, they get to compete.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org