ROCKINGHAM — Although the Raiders had a dead period last week, the practice field at Richmond Senior High School was put to use on Saturday.
More than 250 kids — including a few girls — came out to learn gridiron basics at New Orleans Saints linebacker Dannell Ellerbe’s sixth annual USA Football FUNdamentals camp. His wife, Shervella, said about 230 kids had pre-registered. Monday, she said they “lost track of the camp count at 293.”
While a lot of the kids were from Richmond County, others came from Anson County, like Jalen Marshall, and even Wake County, like Marco Linsey. This was Marshall’s fifth year coming to Ellerbe’s camp.
“It gets everybody together to get better at their foot work and agility and the game of football,” he said.
The coaching staff ran participants through several drills involving tackling, throwing, catching and running under the midday sun, with the heat index breaking 100 degrees.
The ladder drill was a favorite exercise for Marshall, who said he will play varsity for the Bearcats this year.
“It definitely was a success,” Ellerbe, a Hamlet native and former Raider, said at the conclusion of the camp. “I feel that every year is a success and we learn from each year.”
The hardest thing, he said, is trying to stay on time when switching stations.
“You get carried away playing with the kids, talking with the kids and seeing the kids work and have fun,” he said.
Ellerbe paced from station to station, bullhorn in hand, observing the kids in action.
Joining him this year as camp leaders were: former University of Georgia teammates Kade Weston, Darius Dewberry and Jeremy Lomax; Bobby Rainey and Cary Williams form the 2012 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl team; Saints teammates Obum Gwachum, Travaris Cadet, Rafael Bush and Camron Jordan; Jonathan Freeny from the 2016 New England Patriots Super Bowl team; as well as Shawn Wilson, Phillip Ellis, Rodney Beasley, Timothy McCaskill, Christopher Ingram, Rashod Rush, Keleen Stanback, Alex Coulthard and Winston Bullion.
As the leaders watched the kids in their charge, they picked a few who stood out among the rest and were honored with trophies at the end of the day:
• Jalen Marshall, 15 — hardest worker/fastest
• Deuce Wilson, 14 — best all around
• Micah Little, 6 — best all around
• Raekwon McNeil, 12 — best all around
• Deshaun Campbell, 17 — hardest worker
• Robert McNair, 17 — best all around/fastest
• Tyler McKenzie, 6-9 — hardest worker
• Isiah Dawson, 9-12 — hardest worker
• Brandon Mendez, 6-9 — fastest
• Tony Gainey, 12 — fastest
“All the kids have potential,” Ellerbe said. “They finished every drill…I’m proud of ‘em.”
Ellerbe added that it’s always good to come back home and give back to Richmond County.
“I’m just happy to play a part in the kids’ lives and get ‘em up from the Playstations and the air conditioning,” he said.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.