Former University of Illinois and Cincinnati Bengals running back Ty Douthard is giving back to his community with the second year of his Honorable Illini Youth Football Camp series, set to come through Chicago on July 18.

With a focus on teaching the fundamentals of football as well as life skills, the camp will take place at multiple locations in Illinois and Ohio on various dates throughout the month of July. 

Douthard is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended LaSalle High School, an all-boy Catholic school. Douthard graduated in 1992 as a talented running back, obtaining All-City and All-State honors, as well as being named to the Parade All-America team before being offered an athletic scholarship to the University of Illinois. 

Now, Douthard uses his resources as an Fighting Illini alum to provide free camps for kids in grades 3 through 8 in numerous Midwest cities, including Chicago. 

“Our focus is youth service, athletic programming, mentorship and fundraising,” Douthard told The TRiiBE during a phone interview on June 17. “Our vision is, through our organization, we’re able to empower and inspire the youth through athletics, mentorship, and community service.” 

Douthard said it was the death of his stepson, Jordan Jackson, that sparked a desire to start the camp. His son, a promising wide receiver for Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, was a victim of gun violence. He passed away in June 2021 at age 17.

“Divorce is a nasty thing that happens to the family. A lot of times, the kids get lost in that,” Douthard said. “I just never considered the impact of a divorce on Jordan.”

In the aftermath of a divorce, Douthard said his son “latched onto hanging around the wrong crowd, and the wrong people,” he said. “He was an exceptional athlete, had an opportunity to get a D1 scholarship when this tragedy happened.”

Douthard officially created Honorable Illini Inc., in August 2021, two months after his son’s passing. 

“We’re in that stage of impacting the youth; starting out small, but we have some very big initiatives that we’re going to implement,” Douthard told The TRiiBE. “But it starts out at the basic level: football camps, baseball camps, basketball camps,” he said. 

Helping the youth overcome obstacles on and off the field is a true calling for Douthard, as he has overcome a few obstacles in life himself. In Spring 1999, Douthard was living with a former Illini teammate when he came home to police raiding his home. 

Douthard was arrested for the possession of 2.5 pounds of marijuana that was found in the home. Later in July 2001, an appeals court threw out his conviction. However, the 17 months he spent in London Correctional Institution still serves as a learning moment for Douthard. He told The TRiiBE that he doesn’t even smoke marijuana, and didn’t then. 

“I got the word that I was going to be released by the appeals court, wrongful conviction, wrongful incarceration, double jeopardy,” Douthard remembers. 

Looking back at that trying time in his life, Douthard appreciates what he’s learned from the experience. “During that time, I had to sit down and really think and evaluate my life, choices and decisions that I made, and face responsibility for my lack of leadership,” he told The TRiiBE. “I take responsibility for not being a leader, when I’ve always been a leader, and groomed into being a leader.”

Today, Douthard focuses his time on just that, being a leader for the youth and guiding the next generation of student athletes. Douthard organized his first Honorable Illini Youth Football Camp in 2023, getting 65 kids to participate. It took place at Cincinnati Taft High School, located in the Central West End of Cincinnati.

The camps provided by the Honorable Illini Inc., are for children in grades 3 to 8. Douthard said that time in a child’s life is most pivotal as they are “highly impressionable.”

Douthard also made sure the Honorable Illini Inc., wasn’t just composed of former athletes from his alma mater, but rather a network of successful alumni in other industries, whom he, and the kids would have access to. 

“We have people that are in all facets of the business world,” he said. This network includes congressmen and congresswomen, school teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, astronauts and more. 

Douthard prioritizes showing the youth that there are other routes to success outside of professional sports, and encourages them to explore the benefits of choosing a career path while using sports as the vehicle to make it happen.

Douthard teaching a child at an Honorable Illini Camp

“We try to attack it from two standpoints, because not everybody is going to be able to play sports, at the highest level,” he said. 

Youth — or parents looking to get their children involved in the Honorable Illini youth programs — are in luck. They will be having four events in the month of July alone. All camps are free, and registration is available on the Honorable Illini Inc., website. 

  • On July 13, Douthard and the Honorable Illini will be in Champaign, Illinois, providing a free camp for Central Illinois youth football leagues. Camp will take place at Centennial High School, located at 913 Crescent Dr. from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.
  • On July 18, Douthard will be in Chicago at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Chicago, located at 1250 W. 119th St., providing a combine and showcase for Chicago Public School (CPS) athletes in grades 10 through 12 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
  • Then on July 20, Douthard and the Honorable Illini will be in Rantoul, Illinois, providing another free combine and skills camp at the Rantoul Family Sports Complex, located at 744 S. Murray Rd., from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.
  • They will finish the season on July 27 at Douthard’s childhood school, La Salle High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, providing the last free skills camp and combine for the youth football programs there.
Douthard at the University of Illinois

“It’s much bigger than a game, It’s really preparing kids for the game of life. So if parents are having a hard time deciding whether they should allow their kids to play football or whatever sport it may be, I would encourage them to get their kids involved. Because the lessons that they’ve learned are going to prepare them for life,” Douthard said.

is a culture correspondent with The TRiiBE.