Townsend at Rotary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Deshea Townsend (right) speaks with Sandra Darby at the Rotary Club meeting. The Panolian photo by John Howell Sr.

Townsend addresses Rotary

By John Howell Sr.

As the 13th annual DeShea Townsend Football Camp, Cheerleading Clinic and Health Fair on Saturday, June 30 approached, Townsend last week praised the adults who had provided positive mentoring during his youth.

Townsend spoke at the June 19 meeting of the Batesville Rotary Club. The 1994 South Panola graduate who parleyed a stellar high school and college football career into the NFL with the Pittsburg Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, is presently assistant defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals and owner of DeShea Townsend Fitness Center in Batesville.

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He also founded the Pay It Forward Foundation as a means to share his largesse with his hometown.

Townsend, 36, traced his sports training as far back as age seven when he was playing little league baseball and basketball in the Batesville City Parks program under the tutelage of coach Dennis Hoskins.

“Every summer, when we’d miss a ball, we had to run to the fence, but those types of things that he instilled in us about how to work, it carried over into life,” Townsend said.

Hoskins and Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Mississippi Director Belinda Morris attended the Rotary meeting with Townsend.

“Not only did it teach us how to be good sportsmen; it taught us how to work hard, it taught us how to treat  people right, it taught us about respect and he always talked to us about not giving up,” the professional athlete continued.

“You guys, when you give to others and you help in the community like you guys do, you never know what kid it touches,” Townsend said. “You don’t know what kid is going to have the opportunity to be here in front of you guys to speak.

“That’s something that by getting it from Dennis it was placed on my heart to also do the same thing,” said Townsend, who has provided generous support for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northwest Mississippi where Hoskins now works.

“I get the most joy when you see kids that you saw at the Boys and Girls Club, …you see those guys grow up to be successful people, that’s what it is about,” Townsend said.

“Most of the time when I talk to kids, they always figure, ‘man this guy’s my size,’” he quipped. “When I go to speak at places, they’re looking for the football player,” said the former player whose speed and quickness at cornerback for the Steelers belied his 5 feet, 11-inch stature and 183 pounds.

“You never know what you can do until you put your mind to it,” Townsend said.

(“When I stopped playing … I kind of stopped working out, so I got up to 200 pounds which I never did before in my life, so my kids at home were calling me fat, so I had to start back training,” he said, responding to a question about transition from player to coach.)

Saturday’s camp is sponsored by the Pay It Forward Foundation.

“Not only do we talk about football, you get a chance to interact with the kids and teach them a little about life,” Townsend said. “Most of the time I have 10 to 12 guys there, and they get to share their stories with those kids and give them hope that they can do whatever they want to do.”

The foundation also sponsors the health fair.

“When the kids come to the camp, they get a chance to get screened for diabetes, glaucoma, get their vision checked, they have dietitians there … We get a chance to stress the importance of health,” Townsend said.

“When Dennis was making me run to that fence, he was teaching me how to do things the right way. I carried that along my way when I played. … I made sure I said ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, ma’am’ — that came from my daddy and mama.”

“You never know what people you’re helping; it always takes a village to raise a kid. You guys keep doing what you’re doing, and if nobody says ‘thank-you’ for what you do, I’m here to say thank you,” the NFL coach told the Rotarians.

Expected to be at the camp Saturday morning are professional players Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens; Jamarca Sanford, Minnesota Vikings; Peria Jerry, Atlanta Falcons; John Jerry, Miami Dolphins; Dan Williams, Arizona Cardinals; William Gay, Arizona Cardinals; former Southern Miss defensive lineman Terrance Pope and possibly Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

(Learn more about the Pay It Forward Foundation at