Jim Salgado at the Big Daddy Youth Football Camp. (Photo via Peter Schwartz)
Jim Salgado took one step onto the field last summer and was right back at home. The Buffalo Bills defensive assistant coach was a star football player at New Hyde Park High School on Long Island, and now he was back running the “Big Daddy” Youth Football Camp at his alma mater.
It was just like old times … sort of.
“When I was (playing) on it, it looked like half grass and half dirt,” recalled Salgado, who would go on to play cornerback for Hofstra University in nearby Hempstead. “Now they have that nice turf so it kind of made me chuckle a little bit. Just the memories of walking to and from school every day and playing and practicing every day out there and the games in the fall on a Saturday afternoon, it’s something you never forget.”
Are you the parent of a youth, middle school or high school football player who’s looking for more tips or resources? Check out our Parent Guide, Parents 101 course, nutritious recipes and more.
Salgado will have that same feeling next week (June 25-27) when he’ll oversee the annual three-day youth football camp that was founded five years ago by his older brother Rich “Big Daddy” Salgado, also a star football player at New Hyde Park and later at the University of Maryland. He’s currently the President of Coastal Advisors, an insurance company that has many current and former NFL players and coaches as clients.
Some big names from that client list as well some of Jim’s contacts will be guest instructors at the camp as the Salgado brothers continue to give back to their community.
“It means everything,” said Salgado, who spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Princeton before joining the Bills. “To come back home and give back to kids in the community and the surrounding area where I grew up playing with my brothers means the world to me. I’m looking forward to it.”
RELATED CONTENT: Sights and sounds from the 2018 USA Football Protection Tour
Salgado took over coaching the camp in year two back in 2015 when it was held at another venue before it was shifted to New Hyde Park High School last year. What was also different last year was that when Jim was speaking to the kids and coaching them in drills, he did so wearing a Buffalo Bills hat. Salgado joined the Bills staff last season and suffice it to say that the kids at the camp were inspired because their coach was now in the NFL.
A local boy made it big, and that captured the campers’ attention.
“Dreams happen for anyone that puts hard work into it, are committed, and are good people,” said Salgado who has also coached in the college ranks at Syracuse, Northeastern and Cornell. “Good things will happen and it doesn’t matter where you’re from. If it helps any of the young kids that are from the area to let them see that hey, there is a coach that grew up right here and is in the NFL, I think that’s great.”
The camp is held over three evenings with each session lasting two and-a-half hours. It’s a non-contact camp, so the drills are designed for kids who play both tackle and flag football. The campers are split into groups determined by their age and they rotate through various stations around the field. Salgado is at each station, along with a guest instructor, another coach from the camp staff or some combination of two or three.
The objective for the camp is two-fold.
“Well, first and foremost is that we want them to have fun and that they love the game and that it will bring them back to keep playing every year,” said Salgado. “That to me is the most important thing. The second thing would be the fundamentals … teaching them the proper techniques like how to run, how to catch, how to tackle, and how to throw. All those things to keep them safe and let them enjoy the game like I did when I was a kid all the way through high school and into college.”
Jim Salgado at his "Big Daddy" Youth Football Camp (Photo via Peter Schwartz)
The drills are designed to make sure the kids are prepared for when their seasons start in the fall. They are learning from players and coaches who have reached the pinnacle of the sport, so it’s important for them to soak in the information and experiences like a sponge. But what’s also vital is that they learn how to try and stay safe on the field.
Salgado is also a big fan of USA Football’s Heads Up Football program.
“It’s extremely important,” said Salgado. “Everything that we do is making sure that those guys are in the safest position to play the game so that there aren’t any injuries. That’s what we want to teach, and that’s no different than what we do at the Buffalo Bills. We make sure that we teach the proper fundamentals. You learn that at a young age. The younger that they learn the proper way how to do it, it’s only going to help them as they continue on through middle school and high school and hopefully go on to play in college.”
The guest instructor list for this year’s camp is impressive and it includes Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter. Over the first four years of the camp, the kids have had the opportunity and the privilege of learning from many NFL players and coaches, but this is going to be a special treat for this year’s campers.
“That’s going to be an unbelievable experience for the kids to be able to have Cris,” said Salgado. “He’s just a great guy and he’s excited about coming out and getting to share some of his experiences with the kids. To have someone like that come out and spend time with the kids is unbelievable and we’re so thankful for it.”
Other guest instructors this year include former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, current New England Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty, current New York Giants quarterback Davis Webb, former New York Jets safety Erik Coleman, former NFL punter Sean Landeta, former NFL lineman and current NFL Network host Brian Baldinger and former NFL offensive lineman Roman Oben, who is currently the NFL’s Director of Youth and High School football.
During the course of each session, Salgado calls a “timeout” from time to time so the campers can congregate at midfield to hear some words of wisdom from the guest instructors. Salgado will introduce the big names each night and what he sees are campers who cling to each and every word they hear. These kids may have seen some of these players and coaches on TV or perhaps they heard stories about them from their parents.
Either way, having the chance to learn from these individuals who made it to the NFL means a great deal to these youth football players.
“You see these young men looking up and they’re staring at the guys who are talking and saying these guys are here talking to me and teaching me and maybe someday that could be me where I could come back into my community when I go on to play wherever it may be,” said Salgado.” That’s what it’s all about to me. It’s about giving back to the community and giving back to the kids, because they’re the future of this game and we want to make sure we do a great job here of presenting that and teaching them so that they can go on to great careers as well.”
When the camp is over, Salgado will enjoy some time off with his family before heading back up to western New York and help get the Bills ready for the 2018 season. Last year, the Bills ended an 18-year playoff drought and now there is excitement building for them to take another step.
“I’m blessed to be here,” Salgado said. “It’s been a great experience. I’m so thankful to (head coach Sean) McDermott for bringing me here. To come down to that last week and one final play that got us into the playoffs for this community up here, it was so exciting.”
And now Salgado, the entire Bills organization and the fans are even more excited with the arrival of their first-round pick, quarterback Josh Allen. He may or may not start right away, but there is a high level of anticipation to see what he can do in training camp.
“He’s a great young man and he’s come in and has done everything first class,” Salgado said of Allen. “He’s working hard and has tremendous talent.”
There will be a tremendous amount of current and past talent that will help teach kids the great game of football next week at the Big Daddy Camp. Salgado does a great job each year planning the camp and is able to lean on the terrific lineup of guest instructors to make sure the campers are learning the proper fundamentals and techniques.
He was once like the kids in the camp … a young player in the community who loved football and wants to get better. Now, Salgado has made it to the NFL and he’s giving back to the community where he grew up to see if there might be some more kids who can climb the ladder … or at the very least have fun playing football.
Peter Schwartz is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network, FOX News Headlines 24/7 and WCBS 880 Radio in New York. His oldest son Bradley plays youth tackle football for the Super Bowl Champion East Meadow Rams on Long Island, while his younger son Jared plays flag football for the LSW Giants. Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a youth football field.