NFL players are known for the bad things they do- or should I say “allegedly” do. I.e. Ocho Cinco, Ray Lewis, Aaron Hernandez, OJ Simpson (the list could go on for while).
When someone leaves Tuscaloosa to go on to bigger and better things, the perfect hope is that one day they will return and give back to the town that shaped them into the success they have become.
In a town like Tuscaloosa, more often than not, that means in a football sort of sense.
Since 2008, I’ve watched several successes leave to the NFL Draft, and in their first offseason, they set up football camps for kids in Tuscaloosa, or neighborhoods where they grew up. I fell in love with this tradition of humble community service.
But sometimes the camps faded away and the ‘tradition’ quietly left as players seemed to either get too famous for them, or forget about them all together.
But then there are the good stories. On Saturday, former Alabama fullback Le’Ron McClain held his sixth free football camp for local area youth.
The 90 degree weather was perfect for football. With the backdrop of a pristine Alabama southern sky-not a cloud in sight, kids, ages 5-18 ran drills at Tuscaloosa County High School- Le’Ron’s alma mater.
“It feels awesome to be out here, my old stomping grounds,” McClain said with a grin from ear to ear.
What he said next is what Crimson Tide fans all love to hear.
“I’m just blessed to be in a position to come back and give back to my community by having this annual camp,” he said.
Le’Ron’s Facebook page is a testimony to giving back (that and a good PR).
From Wounded Warrior Project visits, to charity basketball games against the Tuscaloosa Police Department (where Le’Ron was the loudest team member and wore a go-pro to give fans the McClain “point of view”), he seems to be a beacon of what the NFL should be- but more importantly – what every former Alabama player should be.
“My message is to try to be a leader on and off the field,” McClain said during his youth football camp. “Just finish, finish whatever you’re doing. In the classroom, education especially, finish all that. Make football your plan B, education is plan A.”
I’m pretty sure every mom in America just made McClain their favorite player.
If your kid were to Google ‘NFL player’ right now, they would get Aaron Hernandez headlines that carry the words, ‘murder’ and ‘suspect’ across the internet. So even in a child’s innocent attempt to find out more about their heroes, their idolized players who they hope to one day be as big as, or to one day be as strong as… at least we can know that there is one player- that kids could one day hope to be as smart as.
In a world of scandal, any reputation can be sullied in a snap. But for now, let’s just enjoy the good stories while we can.