By Myra Bean
In order for Deshea Townsend’s camp to take place, he depends on almost 100 volunteers to make the camp run smoothly and successfully.
Giving up their time and traveling long distances are his teammates and former teammates from the Pittsburgh Steeler team.
This year Townsend bought Willie Parker, Bryan McFaden, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Ike Taylor, Nate Washington, Joey Porter, Will Gay, Charlie Batch, Larry Foote, Anthony Smith and his defensive back coach Ray Horton.
Most of the players said respect for Townsend is why they return to take part in this camp each year. The other reason is they love the idea of giving back to the kids.
Townsend said they love it here and all secretly want to be from Mississippi.
“No,” he said laughing. “They love coming down here. They always have a great time. That’s one thing about my teammates. We are all close and we all support one another. If they have something, they know they can count on me to show up.”
Charlie Batch admitted Townsend “handcuffed” them to come here.
“No, just kidding,” Batch laughed. “Deshea is one of those great guys; well-respected guy on the team.”
Not only did Townsend pull his teammates here he also brought his defensive back coach along this year.
“He is the first coach I have asked,” Townsend said. “He just said he just wanted to come down. It is just great. It just says a lot about how close we are as a team. It is not that hard to pull their legs to get them to come down.”
Townsend said he hopes the kids had a good time and learned a little bit about football.
“I also hope they learn that there is someone out there who cares about them,” he said. “Hopefully, when they go out there and make it, they will do the same thing for someone else. I don’t feel like it’s an obligation. I want to do it. I love doing it. That’s why I come back and do it.”
Ike Taylor said Townsend looked after him when he first got in the NFL as a rookie.
“ I owe him a favor I think and that’s coming back to his home town and contributing,” Taylor said.
Bryan McFadden hoped he imparted for the kids to be successful, dedicated, disciplined and most importantly to listen to those above them. He called it an honor to be able to help children along the way.
Joey Porter just likes giving back to the community even if it is not his community.
“We just help them with the fundamentals of the game, making sure they play the game the right way,” Porter said.
Willie Parker said he is from the hood and never went to camps growing up.
“Kids need that inspiration from some one who has been there, done that situation,” Parker said. “I want to inspire the kids because I did not have anyone to inspire me.”
Anthony Smith is in his third year in the NFL and wants to support the children and let them know there is a future out there for them.
“If they put their minds to it, they can do whatever they want,” Smith said. “Basically, what you learned in college, it is in a bigger spotlight in NFL. Everything you do is magnified more so you have to learn to make the right decisions, right choices and everything will be all right.”
Batch said for kids having to make the choices when dealing with peer pressure, there is a right way and a wrong way.
“When you come to that fork in the path, we want to make sure we keep you on that straight and narrow,” Batch said. “Take you down the right path. You try to save everybody but if you can save one that is more than it was yesterday.”
Horton has coached Townsend for five years.
??He is a remarkable young man, not only on the field but off the field with his gift of time, monetary,” Hornton said. “I just wanted to come support him. I have been touched personally by the man. I just wanted to give back to him. I wouldn’t say it was a father/son relationship or brother/brother relationship but I think there is a mutual respect between the two of us.
“Because I had help in my career along the way, I want to give support back to Deshea. You never know who Deshea’s going to touch out here. It has been a remarkable turnout. It is nothing more than love, support and admiration for the man. I think this is a legacy he is building here. To come back to his hometown and do this when he could easily do one in Pittsburgh.”