Most kids can only dream of holding a conversation with a National Football league (NFL) player and can’t imagine picking up tips about how to play the game from a pro.

But that’s exactly what happened on July 6, when roughly 300 five- to 17-year-olds spent five hours with some pro football players at Jameel McClain’s Football and Fitness Clinic.

“It feels good,” Jackson Smith, 7, told the AFRO, adding, “and it’s exciting.”

McClain, a Ravens linebacker whose one-day youth football camp grows larger each year, brought a few friends along with him: Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe, Edgar Jones and Bryan Hall.

“I am all about giving back and all about the youth. It just seemed like a good fit,” McClain, told the AFRO of his four-year partnership with Big Brother Big Sister of the Greater Chesapeake.

Oher told the AFRO, “Jameel gives back to the community all the time. He does a lot of stuff and he is very positive in the community.” He said, “It helps the kids out tremendously to have something like this, kids look up to us.”

Also on hand to assist McClain were nearly a dozen volunteers and coaches. Reggie Davis, who has volunteered for three years said, “This camp is great for the kids. It allows kids to see adults doing positive things, therefore it gives them hope.”

Davis told the AFRO, “a lot of kids now are exposed to more, forcing them to grow up faster, so anytime you can help out and give back it’s great.”

As footballs flew back and fourth across the field, children running from one yard to the next, were all too excited to be playing with some of the big leagues.

“It feels good and it’s exciting,” a seven-year old told the AFRO.

Setting back their parents only $35, the event was hosted in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake, which specializes in partnering mentors and mentees together with a science.

“This event will help the children with character building, leadership, proper nutrition and health and specifically about teamwork,” said Selwyn Ray, community engagement for Big Brother Big Sister. “The children will receive messages of leadership, strength, perseverance and learn how to develop their own self concepts.”

Ray said, in an environment where dysfunctional families are common and chaotic communities the norm, children are receiving messages from their peers based on limited and incomplete information about how to live.

McClain said he sees the clinic as an opportunity to deliver positive messages in a fun setting.

“We can’t change the world over night, but we can at least plant the seed in some kids so that he may change his perspective.” McClain said.

As the children ate lunch, McClain delivered a motivation talk that included this conclusion: “Some people succeed because they are destined, some people succeed because they are determined.”

The impact McClain made on the children in his camp was evident after awarding six young children “character awards.” The awards were presented to the child who demonstrated great teamwork and sportsmanship.

“It’s more than just football, said McClain.


Blair Adams and Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writers