Koda's Kids Football & Cheer Camp returns to South Aiken

Jun. 1—A late audible can throw even the most savvy defenders into disarray on the football field, leaving them scrambling around trying to readjust before the ball is snapped.

Not Koda's Kids, though.

Former South Aiken star and multi-year NFL veteran Dekoda Watson brought back his foundation's youth football camp back to his alma mater Saturday after a several-year hiatus, thanks in large part to a push from his sister Amber, who leads the cheerleading side of the camp.

Based on the turnout, it didn't seem like the late notice was much of an obstacle.

"I do want to say it's truly a blessing to see that people still believed in this, still supported and want more with the foundation even after all these years," Watson said. "I want to continue to make sure that we push that and continue to provide these opportunities for these kids and just give them a different mindset. That's really my main goal, to let them know that no matter the circumstances, your background, your family, whatever the case is, don't let that be a hindrance to you."

Dozens of elementary- and middle-school-aged campers, plus some high-schoolers, turned out for a few hours of instruction from the Watsons and some of Dekoda's old football pals like his Florida State roommate Mister Alexander; Aiken High Hall of Famer and Florida State legend Jamal Reynolds; and former T-Bred teammates like Xavier Madison and Albert O'Neal.

The kids ran drills in stations around South Aiken's field before finishing off the camp with a few games of two-hand touch. Afterward, campers swarmed Watson and his friends for pictures and autographs.

Not bad for a camp that wasn't supposed to happen.

"I really wasn't trying to do a camp this year, but for us to be able to make this happen and this many people come out, I'm glad that I did," he said. "And we'll make sure it's going to be even bigger. It's going to be bigger and better. I'm looking forward to it."

His excitement was evident when talking about plans for next year. There were already new vendors this year and opportunities for the kids to have their faces painted, eat snow cones and play video games, and he already has ideas to expand — a bounce house and cool zone for starters, plus whoever else might be interested in joining in on the fun.

"I want anybody and any entrepreneur, especially the young ones that are starting their own business, to be able to come out here and advertise their stuff," he said. "Because, again, the more that we can educate each other and lift each other up, the better off it will be for our kids and the more advantages we can have as far as Aiken, South Carolina, because they can see that they will always have help and be supported, whether it's your business, your business, my business, whatever we've got going on. We want to make sure that we help everybody."

Though it was the first Koda's Kids Foundation camp held in the area in since before 2020, Watson could tell by the response Saturday that they have not been forgotten.

"I'm blessed, and I'm truly humbled by it," he said. "I do appreciate the love and the support, even after all these years. They're still showing love. Thank y'all. Y'all did y'all's part, let me continue to do mine."