Tony Alford speaks with the youth campers at the G.O.A.T. football camp at Dozier Field last week. Christopher Reeves/Park Record
Tony Alford speaks with the youth campers at the G.O.A.T. football camp at Dozier Field last week. Christopher Reeves/Park Record
Submitted by David Zur

G.O.A.T. is not just a saying, it's how Aaron Alford lived. Alford had great enthusiasm for two things: helping youths and coaching football. That enthusiasm lives on through the G.O.A.T. Camp, and Alford's dream is now a reality thanks to the efforts of his brother Tony, family, friends and community.

The G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) Camp is a youth football camp conducted by Tony Alford, running backs coach for the University of Notre Dame.

"Aaron had a vision of having a bunch of kids from Park City learn football, and getting college coaches from around the country come in that we were friends with," Alford said. "It's sad that he wasn't physically here to see it come to fruition, but he knows."

Aaron Alford died suddenly in August 2013 at the age of 39, when a large blood clot from deep vein thrombosis migrated to his heart. He was in his first year as a Park City High School football coach, and was in the Park City School District office building to sign papers to become PCHS's new athletic director when he died.

The G.O.A.T. Camp was held June 30-July 2 on Park City High School's Dozier Field. Each day, over 175 kids from 8-14 years old learned the basics of football. Eight college coaches, 15-20 Ute Conference coaches, and 30-40 high school players volunteered to run the camp. Kids from Park City, South Summit, Wasatch, Wyoming, Phoenix, California and Texas participated.

"I look around and I just get goosebumps. This is what Aaron envisioned and I don't even know that he envisioned it would be this awesome," Linda Alford, Aaron's widow, said on the last day of the camp. "And the fact that the community support and the support from coaches from around the nation that came to be part of this " Her voice trailed off at that point, just thinking of the all-volunteer effort it took to pull this off.

She was quickly back on track saying "(Ute Conference coaches) Thomas Baines, John Lukrich and Shawn Long, (PCHS head football coach) Mike Shepherd Café Terigo had a dinner for all the coaches, Spencer's Smokin' Grill did catering." She shook her head in amazement. "The (Notre Dame head coach Brian) Kelley Cares Foundation was huge! We had Notre Dame fans hand us checks to pay for scholarship kids. Local families opened their homes for the visiting coaches. Just amazing."

Seventy kids who had never played football took part in the camp. Ten-year-old Colby Johnson said "I didn't play last year but I'm going to play football this year! I like the way the game works and how everyone works as a team."

PCHS football coach Bob Burns noted that the campers were placed on teams that stayed together for all three days, ensuring that the kids were able to get to know each other. "I made some new friends!" said Johnson. PCHS player and Aaron's son Elijah noted that "the kids were awesome and made the camp fun for all of us."

Linda Alford continued: "We're trying to make football big in Park City again, and the way you do that is to develop the little kids' love for the game. We want Friday nights to be kids sitting on the hill (at Dozier Field), making a tunnel for the players to run through, everyone in the community comes out so there's not one open seat in the bleachers. We need greatness here."

Standing on the Dozier Field sidelines in an unfamiliar observer role, Shepherd was clearly impressed. "We want as many kids excited about football as possible. Tony and all the coaches did a great job organizing the camp."

"Parents have told me that their kids went home after camp and played football that's what this is about," said Linda Alford.

The PCHS Booster Club manned the concession stand and all proceeds go to the Park City Ute Conference youth football program.

At the end of the camp, Tony Alford gave a rousing motivational speech to the campers: "You're a special group of kids, out here improving your habits instead of sitting on the couch with the Xbox. It's great to see how hard you work and pay attention. If you get knocked down, do you get back up? Yes! Football is like life."

Tony Alford said "If we can give them anything, convey any positive messages, then we've done our job. Hopefully this is the greatest of all time football camp in Park City."

The G.O.A.T. Camp certainly lived up to its name.

The PCHS Miners football team kicks off its 2014 campaign on August 22 at Dozier Field vs. Class 2A state champion South Summit. Play in the Ute Conference Youth Football League for kids 8-15 years old starts in August; more details can be found at www.utefootball.org.