BATESVILLE – For the third year, NFL players Deshea Townsend and Dwayne Rudd hosted an All-American Sports Camp for children.
In addition to Rudd and Townsend, Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis "The Bus" was on hand, along with other Steelers players, to help conduct the camp.
Other Steelers players on hand were Casey Hampton, Joey Porter, Kendrick Clancy, Hines Ward, Amos Zereoue and James Farrior.
The almost 300 boys and girls took part in football, basketball and cheerleading.
After the camp, Rudd spoke extensively about the camp’s goals for this year and future years.
Rudd and Townsend’s main goals are to give back to the community.
"I don’t think we will ever meet our goal to give back to the community unless we place ourselves in the community by being here everyday," Rudd said. "But I think it is a lot of fun. It is memorable to some. It’s a start."
Though he did not go into great detail about next year’s camp, Rudd said he wants it to be bigger and stronger.
"This is absolutely the greatest," Rudd said. "My teammates and I notice you have to go to a big city to get this kind of turnout. This turnout in a small city is very, very good."
"From comments from the guys we have had in the past, we want it to be bigger," Rudd continue. "We understand the potential. There is really not that much going on here. Deshea and I really want to know what it will be if we promote it ourselves."
According to Rudd, Bettis and other players said this camp in Batesville is consistently one of the better camps around the country.
In order to make the camp bigger and stronger, Rudd said he and Townsend will try to come to the area once a week before the camp date.
"The week before that we are very busy in the prime of our careers, and we don’t have time with our work-out schedules to come back and place ourselves other than the city we play in," Rudd said. "So we will try to do our best next year to find time to come down one day a week in the weeks before the camp."
The camp was open for 300 children, but fell short according to Rudd.
"We weren’t really happy with the turnout numbers-wise, based on this being the largest classification, 5A. We should have a lot more kids in the community."
In fact Rudd talked about opening the camp to be a two-day event in the future. He did not say how far or close in the future in which a two-day camp will be a reality.
"The participants have to make this a true event," Rudd said.
Not only does Rudd want to offer sports camps, but he wants to offer camps in other careers as well.
"We want to get other guest athletes," Rudd said. "We will have more people here next year. People who are not athletes. People who are trying to achieve other things in life will come in."
Rudd said he did like this year’s camp a little better because it was a little less football.
"There was more mingling, talking, signing and really doing what the kids want to do," he said. "We are a major influence to them right now. We are an inspiration. Playing football, basketball and other sports are some things they do every day."
Being around the NFL athletes is something else, according to Rudd.
The NFL players treated the participants and volunteers to a showcase of their skills on the basketball court. Alley-oops, long three-point attempts and slam dunks were the order of the day.
There are other issues and organizations, Rudd said he and Townsend would like to see get better, bigger and stronger. One of those organizations is the Boys and Girls Club.
"I really want to support Dennis Hoskins in what he is doing. We really want to try to uplift what he is doing not only financially but with time.
"Deshea and I understand this camp effort counts," Rudd continued. "It’s really a blessing to do it but we really want to show our full potential by coming back when we finish playing and really placing ourselves here."
Rudd said it was great that so many of the busy NFL players were able to take time out and take part in the camp.
"We are so happy to get so many guys to come out. High profile, all-pro guys came down when they can do so many other things for money. A thing like this they charge a lot of money for. Deshea has a relationship with them and they came out and had a great time," Rudd said.
The whole camp, along with the party and accommodations for the players cost Rudd and Townsend close to $20,000, according to Rudd.
Rudd said he and Townsend did not use their sponsors, Reebok and Nike, respectively, to help pay for the camp.
"We have tons of people who want to come out and sponsor it but there is no need for it," Rudd said. "We like to feel like we are giving back ourselves. We have pretty good careers, pretty lengthy careers. We will always have connections, always have sponsors."
After speaking of the camp, Rudd shared a little about living in Florida after he signed a two-year contract with the Superbowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I live there now. I have a home there. It will be great teaming up with Derrick Brooks. I know him personally from over the years," Rudd said.
"Obviously, everybody knows it’s the greatest defense in the NFL," Rudd said of his new team.
He went on to say hopefully, he will upgrade the defense. Tampa Bay has a young defense. Warren Sapp is the oldest at 30. The player Rudd replaced was not as athletic as him, he said.
"It has a great defense and hopefully I can add a little bit more speed to the defense," Rudd said.
"If we will repeat as Superbowl Champions, I don’t know," Rudd continued.
Rudd compared being in Florida to his "younger days" as a Minnesota Viking.
"Great team," he said. "Everybody is close. Everybody wants to be at work. Everybody wants to win. So the environment is like what Dennis Green had for me in my early years. I got it back with Coach [Jon] Gruden."
Rudd said he and his defensive teammates have said they want to play together for two years.
"We are in our prime," he said. "Money is a factor. We make a lot of money collectively. Whatever cuts money wise, whatever restructuring contracts, we have all agreed we want to play together for two years."