Letter: Kudos to Tom Backhus and the Vail Football Camp
I recently found out Tom Backhus will no longer be leading the Vail Football Camp and couldn’t help but reflect what the camp offered me and my Eagle Valley High School teammates more than 30 years ago. Growing up in rural Colorado had many life benefits but if you wanted to play football after high school, the opportunities to catch a recruiter’s eye were minimal. Other camps were offered in metro Denver and Boulder but the logistics and cost limited players from the Eagle Valley to attend. Normally there were more than 400 other campers which didn’t offer much one-on-one instruction. I’m sure Backhus knew this and had the network to bring top coaches to Vail for a week every summer.
While I’m sure there were some golf “promises” to the coaches, I’m certain they attended the camp because Backhus was a great friend and peer. As a high schooler back in the early days, you not only received instruction from Division I coaches, but you also got to meet the players you would compete against later that year and even have a few laughs about the previous year’s game. Battle Mountain Huskies such as Scott Ward, Tim Adams, Jeff Campbell, John Davis and JC Moritz had faces to the names after this camp and some of the “enemies” became life-long friends.
Personally, this camp allowed me to make contact with an Air Force Academy coach (Sammy Steinmark) and after one thing led to the next, I received an appointment to United States Air Force Academy and the opportunity to play football. It wasn’t easy, and I still remember meeting with Backhus in his Vail office filled with Ohio State memorabilia after I made the decision. He assured me I had no idea what I was going to experience until I was there and he was absolutely correct. But I have to say, after playing for the Falcons four years then serving in the Air Force for nearly 24 years thereafter, he helped me not only get into the academy but set my life on a trajectory I never could have imagined as an 18-year old.
Backhus could write quite a story based on this camp alone and I’m sure those mid-’80s teams from both ends of the valley would contain some names that still have a place on the records wall in the respective high school. Coach Backhus — thanks for dedicating yourself to making the youth of Eagle County better football players and better people. Your impact is immeasurable and you will always be held in high regard for what you did for all of us.
EVHS Class of ‘88