MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Greg Camarillo is a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings. His father is a professor at Stanford who grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton.
His brother used to serve as a school administrator there. It’s the rough part of town, and the Camarillo’s have been doing something about it.
Camarillo has a lot on his mind this time of year, it’s part of life in the NFL. But it’s not just about football. He and his brother are engrained in Compton, Calif., one of the toughest inner city suburbs in Los Angeles.
“It’s tough. I’m obviously not from there but my father grew up there and it’s a lot of guys influenced by gangs and drugs are prevalent. A lot of them are coming from single parent households, so the odds are against them,” Camarillo said.
They have a specific cause: His name is Kitan Hamm, and he’s a great athlete. He’s also a product of Compton, which means he’s at risk.
“The pressure for me is very high. It’s very hard because everybody wants you to be a part of their gang because you’re a big-time athlete and stuff, so it brings exposure to the gang and to you also,” said Hamm.
“He’s impressive. He’s not the tallest guy, but he’s real strong,” Camarillo said. “He plays running back and safety,and I think he can play on Saturdays so hopefully we can see him play in college in the future.”
In Camarillo’s mind, he’s got another advantage: He lives with two parents.
“We just stay together as a family in everything that we do,” said Hamm’s mother. “When you speak of him, you speak of more than just one person. My husband is known by his last name in every neighborhood that we go into.”
What Camarillo the football players has learned is that his Changing Forward program, like his life, is based not on athletics, but a more important ingredient that can take you out of Compton and to anywhere you want to go.
“We focus on education,” Camarillo said. “We have a group of guys who are all generally good athletes, but the message to them is education is what’s going to take you somewhere in life. He’s just an example of a kid who has embraced that lesson, has done great in school and it’s paying off for him.”