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For New Pittsburgh Courier
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets All-Pro cornerback, former Pitt and Aliquippa superstar, stressed the value of giving back to the community you came from at his football camp in his hometown of Aliquippa.
“It’s very valuable to give it back, you can’t go halfway. You have to give one hundred percent,” he said. “You have to put your whole heart into this when you give back. This has been on my heart for a couple of years, starting a foundation, trying to focus on a certain avenue to attack, and its kids for me.
|LOOKING TO PASS—Darrelle Revis looks over the defense as he plays QB in a 7 on 7 drill.
“I have kids myself, and trying to focus on the father figure I can be, and also I am a role model to some kids, so I’m just trying to give back as much as I can. We are role models. We’re role models, people look up to us, so we have to try to set the right example for these kids because they’re the future.”
Revis used his “Skills & Drills Camp” to teach leadership and positive life values, along with football skills to aspiring young athletes during a two day clinic at Aliquippa High School’s Carl A. Aschman Stadium, June 21 and 22. He challenged the nearly 230 young people in attendance to excel first in the classroom as a prerequisite to athletic achievement and to succeed in whatever career choice a student makes upon completion of their education. He also emphasized that it is time to put an end to the violence that is happening with our young people in our communities.
“You need to encourage each other, study together, don’t be afraid to tell your friends to do the right thing,” he said. “It’s about leadership and education. It’s all right to tell your boy, ‘lets’ work on getting a scholarship,’ go to school somewhere, it doesn’t matter where; get a degree, get up out of here and experience something else somewhere else,” he said.
Larry Fitzgerald, perennial All-NFL receiver and former Pitt great, served as one of the guest coaches for Friday’s session. He mentioned how much it meant to return to the Pittsburgh area where he grew into a man. He talked of his passion for the sport and for helping young people in any way he can.
“I remember not too long ago, I was one of these youngsters out here, learning and itching for more knowledge from these professional athletes out here,” he said. “I’m really passionate about what I do, and I can see these young men are really passionate about what they do as well. So whenever I can give some insight to help with what they’re doing, I’m more than willing to do so. I turned into a man here.”
Fitzgerald is also dedicated to the cause of these young people, stating, “realistically, with all these kids out here, maybe one or two, if they’re lucky, will make it to the NFL, but regardless of whether any of them ever play pro sports, they have to become responsible citizens in the community, responsible husbands So life skills are much more important than football skills, because they are something they’ll have to use for the rest of their lives.
“Long after my football career is over, I’ll still have to be a productive community citizen. They’ll still have to pay their taxes and raise their children. I want these young men to know that no matter what they’re doing in life, they have to be responsible for their own actions and be good citizens. It’s all about the kids, a lot of these kids don’t have father figures, so it’s important as a Black man to lead by example. If they like what we’re doing, they look up to us and try to emulate us. We are role models by default.”
The theme of creating your own positive brand was drilled into the camp’s participants by chief facilitator, former NFL, CFL and USFL player, Frank Murphy, who kept all activities running smoothly.
Murphy told the group, “Coach Revis came back to give out his heart to the community he grew up in, to the school that he shows respect to, and is a guy that cares about the community, he’s worth listening to.
“We want to make sure that you understand how important this opportunity is. You got some of the best NFL players at their positions coming out to speak into your life to make sure that you understand that it’s not just about football. It’s about leadership, it’s about focusing in the classroom, it’s about making better choices about who your friends are. It’s about not giving in to peer pressure forcing you to do things that you know are not right.”
Murphy had them demonstrate the skills learned and also forced responses from them on leadership and the power of positive thinking. Murphy said that the camp in Aliquippa had drawn the most NFL players of any of the camps run by Pro Camps.
Smokehouse award winners on Thursday were Maurice Harris (6.44 seconds), Terani Solomon (5.77) and Antoine Brooks (5.10). Thursday Campers of the Day were Nodin Tracy; Mike Conley and Jakori Ross.
Friday awardees were Jameel Jeter (5.18), Jordan Whitehead (4.53) and Hasaan Thompson (4.66). Murphy noted that Whitehead and Thompson clocked the two fastest times ever run at a Pro Camps clinic, quite notable since more that 70 camps are conducted by the organization. Campers of the day were Ben Barrillau, Anthony Barton and Anthony Colianni. The Coaches award went to Ken Gray for the discipline and achievement shown by his group. Anthony Barton, NCAA/Pitt division Camper of the Day said, “I think it was a good experience to help the kids learn more about how to play (more than) one position.
“I learned how to read my keys better and learned how to play more positions than I ever thought I’d be able to play. I learned how to play cornerback like it was nothing, it was easy. I learned from one of the best, yes sir.” When the conversation focused on academics and life values, Barton, holder of a 3.5 GPA said, “Coach Revis, Fitzgerald, Murphy and the other coaches had a big impact on me because they’re the ones that made it, they got to that level. So it would be a sign of ignorance if you’re not listening to them and taking their advice, for they can give you the knowledge to get to where you want to be.”
He said his grades were very important to him because without grades, he could do nothing. He said that if all his friends went to the pros, he would still stay in college to get his degree. “After my seasons in the pros, I can start my own management business or become a brain surgeon,” he said. The camp did a lot to prepare him for what he wanted to do after football.
Charles Small of the Pitt Basketball Program set the tone, advising the group, “think about defining who you are and what you represent. You represent your families, you represent good students, you represent good community members. Companies spend a lot of time and money defining and marketing their brand, you can do the same thing. Define your brand, market your brand, appearance, thoughts. Life is a door of opportunity and you must be prepared to walk through it.”
“Everybody isn’t going to be a professional football or basketball player,” Revis said “There’s going to be some that’ll be professional lawyers and doctors out of this group, so that’s why I stress education so much because that’s the thing that gets you through the door. I hope these kids understand that, the importance of education.
“Aliquippa is a rough town, when I grew up, there were gangs around here and some of these kids are involved in that too. They have to understand it’s time to stop, respect each other, take care of each other, that’s what we did.”
When asked why Aliquippa is so successful in athletic achievement, noting men like Ty Law, Josh Lay, Brandon Lindsay and Revis’ uncles, Shawn and Mark Gilbert, Revis joked, “you know the myth: there’s something in the water.” He then got serious, stating, “it’s the Aliquippa program. A lot of these volunteer coaches have been coaching kids here since I was in pee-wee football. We were taught the same plays, as little kids that we ran in high school, it got a little more complex at each level. It’s the same system, and if you can keep ‘repping’ the same thing year after year, the kids know it. That, along with the fact that these coaches care and are dedicated to the community and its youth is what makes Aliquippa football so great.”
In addition to Revis, Fitzgerald and Murphy, other present and former professional football players who served as guest coaches were three time Super Bowl champion, Ty Law, Shawn Gilbert, Major Wright, Leon Washington, Laverniues Coles, Brandon Lindsay, Josh Lay, Charles Fisher, Derrick Sloan and Mike Washington.
The three day event concluded with a celebrity basketball game that featured a team made up of the guest NFL coaches versus a team comprised of volunteer coaches and other players from the Aliquippa area. The thrilling game was won by the NFL players 104-99. Proceeds from the game, which attracted an audience of nearly 2,000 to the Aliquippa High School Fieldhouse, will provide scholarships and other aid to area youth.
Nerih spokespersons, which included Aileen Gilbert (Revis’ grandmother) and Dianna Askew (his mother), , were extremely pleased with the success of the event.
Revis was given an accommodation by Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker during halftime, which featured a twenty minute performance by national rap/hip-hop recording artist, Big Krit.
The camp was conceived by two foundations, Nerih, Inc. and Revis Island. It was operated by Pro Camps in conjunction with NOW Marketing Group, was sponsored by ESPN, Nike, Gatorade, GNC, SAG, Uncommon Grounds which supplied the food. Greater Pittsburgh Physical Therapy and Greater Pittsburgh Orthopedics provided medical and hydration services. The media trailer was supplied by You Cube of Florida.
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