National Playmakers Academy visits Rhea County

Mason Stephenson, a rising senior Wingback/Linebacker for the Golden Eagles, works out during Sunday’s NPA Showcase at Eagle Stadium. (photo: Christopher Hall / Rhea Herald News) 

Article and photos by Christopher Hall, Rhea Herald News

Over 130 elite football players from across the Tennessee-North Georgia region settled onto the campus of Rhea County High School Sunday afternoon to take part in the National Playmakers Academy (NPA) satellite showcase camp at Eagle Stadium.

NPA is an organization committed to helping young middle and high school football athletes thrive on and off the field. Their mission is to assist young student athletes in realizing their dream of playing college football through achieving college scholarships.

The camps, which take place across the state of Tennessee, showcase the top athletes in the Southeast. Showcases include a position specific individual period where evaluations will take place.

The Competition segment will include one on one’s, pass rush/pass blocking and wide receiver/defensive back matchups and more. MVP awards are given to the best Lineman, Skill position players and underclassmen. ACT prep information is also available.

Several of Rhea County’s finest turned out for the event and made a great impression on the coaches and staff of NPA and founder Buck Fitzgerald, who hope to return to Evensville in the future.

“Kevin Smith, a coach on the NPA staff, has a great relationship with Head Coach Mark Pemberton and he thought it would be a great idea to tap into the great football tradition down here,” Fitzgerald said.

“This area so vibrant with football energy and we wanted to go to a place where football king and the facilities here are great and we wanted to tap into that,” he said.

NPA will be on the road again next week at Alcoa High School in Knoxville, Tenn as well as Clarksville in May.  “Right now we have camps in Nashville, Clarksville, Knoxville and now here in Rhea County and we hope to come back here again next year,” Fitzgerald said.

Overall the NPA staff was pleased with the turnout and talent on the field Sunday afternoon and saw plenty of potential in the young men who showed up for the showcase.

“Today was wonderful and the turn out was great. It was nice to see all the Rhea County guys come out today, they competed and got better and really impressed us.  We’re grateful for the opportunity and support from fans and parents that came out today with us. It was just a tremendous day,” he said.

According to the official website, Maurice “Buck” Fitzgerald serves as Founder and CEO of NPA. He attended Pearl Cohn High School where he led the team to one state championship where he played Quarterback and Defensive Back. Fitzgerald received a full athletic scholarship to The University of Tennessee at Knoxville and played alongside the likes Peyton Manning, Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson.

He was a part of the 1998 National Championship team where he played Defensive Back for the Vols. Buck majored in Business Administration and later continued to coach in middle and high schools in the Nashville area. He is currently the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach at Stratford in Nashville.

For more information about NPA and upcoming camps, visit them online at

 Christopher Hall can be reached at

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