Why coach Ron McBride and the Boone Brothers Football Camp just keep on giving
Football has been very good to the Boone brothers — Aaron, Jesse and Jason — so they keep giving back to the sport they love
In what may well qualify as the bargain of the year, the Boone Brothers Football Camp will be held this coming Saturday, April 30, at Juan Diego High School in Draper. All fourth, fifth and sixth graders are invited — up to a maximum of 300 kids — and the cost is $29.
For that price you get a camp T-shirt, a wristband, free drinks, a commemorative photo and five hours of instruction from dozens of former college and professional players and coaches.
Similar camps can cost hundreds of dollars.
So why are the Boone brothers doing it? Too many hits to the head?
Let’s rewind 27 years to 1995 to help answer the question.
Aaron Boone, the second in line of the football-playing brothers — Jonathan is older, Jesse and Jason are younger — is a high school kid working the late shift at a gas station in his central Utah hometown of Fillmore.
A man walks in to pay for his gas.
The man sizes up Aaron. He notices his large hands. He suspects he must have a good work ethic because he’s holding down this job at the gas station.
“You have good hands,” the man says. “You play football?”
“Well, yeah, I’m a quarterback,” says Aaron, who introduces himself and explains that he plays for the Millard High School Eagles.
The man says, “I’m going to remember your name.”
A few days later, a letter comes in the mail to Aaron’s house, informing him he’s being recruited by the University of Utah.
Turned out, the man buying the gas was then-Ute head coach Ron McBride, who had been recruiting in California, and was still recruiting on the way home. He remembered his name.
The chance encounter led to visits to the University of Utah campus and football games, serving as Aaron’s introduction to a world a kid from a small Utah town with nine brothers and sisters and parents who worked two jobs just to make ends meet barely knew existed.
Just getting that glimpse made all the difference.
As it turned out, the Utes didn’t end up offering Aaron a scholarship. He first played at Snow College as a wide receiver, and then two years at the University of Kentucky, where he led the vaunted SEC in receiving. That led to a multiyear, multileague career as a pro, including stints in the NFL, NFL-Europe and AFL (Arena Football League).
Although he never wound up playing for McBride, Aaron never lost sight of the man who opened his horizons.
As for the coach, he’s still kicking himself for not signing the kid he discovered.
“We missed the boat on that one, we weren’t going to miss it again,” he says, explaining why he offered scholarships to Aaron’s younger brothers, first Jesse, then Jason.
Jesse was an all-conference center and team captain for the Utes and Jason, one of McBride’s final recruits, an all-conference lineman. Like their big brother, both went on to play professional football, including brief stints in the NFL.
It was in 2011, after all of the Boone brothers had retired from playing football (oldest brother Jonathan played at Provo High School and briefly at then-Ricks College), that they put together their first youth football camp. They held it in Fillmore at Millard High School, their old stomping grounds, and charged $29 per camper.
The whole idea was to let rural kids like them experience something they could never afford to experience.
Except for the COVID-19 year of 2020, they’ve held their Fillmore camp ever since.
Now, they’re expanding. The April 30 camp at Juan Diego High School marks their first along the Wasatch Front.
The goal is the same as the Fillmore camp: teach the fundamentals of football and life.
“Maybe football’s not where you’re going to be,” says Jason, “but that same work ethic and dedication is going to apply to whatever you end up doing.”
Adds Aaron, “I want them to look at me and say, ‘He went to a 2A high school in podunk Utah and he made it to the pros. If he can do it, I can too.’”
The Boone brothers aren’t wealthy. None of them came out of football a millionaire. They’re all self-employed, with mortgages and truck payments. Each year, their hope is to have enough sponsors so they don’t lose too much money on their camps. “Some years we lose a lot of money; other years we’re able to cover costs,” says Jesse.
But they have no plan of ever stopping. “I don’t think we could quit now if we wanted to,” says Jon. Giving back is just too much fun.
At a capacity of 300 kids, the Salt Lake area camp will be their biggest yet.
To make sure they’re well staffed, they’ve sent word out to their football friends that volunteers are needed and will be greatly appreciated. (To sign up or volunteer, go to boonebrothersfoundation.com.)
Among those who have signed on to help is the man who shook hands with Aaron 27 years ago.
Eighty-two year old Ron McBride will be there to offer tips, wisdom, encouragement and sign autographs.
“I love what they’re doing,” the venerable coach says of the Boones. “They always had such a great work ethic. They were going to do whatever they had to do to become great players.
“Now they’re giving back to the kids, giving them an opportunity to be around people who love football and see the importance of what it’s done for them. One of the great things about football is it teaches you how to get up when you get knocked down. When you have problems in your life, you learn how to process things so a minus becomes a plus.”