Cornerback Fred Bennett knew he was born with athletic potential. As a youth, the South Carolina native would leave his friends in the dust when they were racing or playing a recreational game of basketball. Bennett, however, had no idea that football would turn out to be his professional calling.
Bennett did not join an organized football team until the eighth grade. Because of his natural ability, he excelled immediately, but he felt a step behind the other players who had attended youth football camps.
"Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to attend any camps like these, but I wish I did," Bennett said at the Texans Youth Football Camp.
"It's real important. I think they instill the fundamentals of football into these kids. I think that will help them down the road."
On Wednesday, Bennett got his chance to go to camp, speaking to several hundred participants of the Texans Youth Football Camp about the importance of learning football fundamentals and developing a strong work ethic.
"When you start out young, you know what's going on before you get to that next level," Bennett said. "You know the fundamentals of football.
"If it's one thing, I would tell them that hard work pays off. I'm a real, true believer of hard work."
Bennett's message hit home with the youth participating in the camp, most of whom looked wide-eyed at the Texans' Rookie of the Year as he addressed a packed Methodist Training Center.
His motivational talk and autograph session capped off one day of the weeklong camp, which teaches children ages 8 to 14 skills such as passing, receiving, blocking, tackling and kicking.
"We worked on offense and defense," one sweaty camper said. "We learned all of the individual positions, including how to align yourself and we've worked on the fundamentals of football."
The Texans Youth Football Camp recruits the city's top-area high school coaches to teach beginners and experienced players the basics of football through tackle or flag play. The camp also includes visits and autographs from Texans players each day.
Bennett was certainly a highlight for the campers, who lined up to have jerseys and footballs autographed by the Texans starter.
"I know when I was young and I would see a professional player on TV, I thought the world of it," Bennett said. "They get to see me first hand and it makes me feel good inside to know that I can have an effect on some of these kids."