On Saturday, the two current NFL and former Purple Hurricanes players took time to make some memories for the next generation of youngsters in Cartersville as they held the third annual Andre Fluellen and Ronnie Brown football camp at Weinman Stadium.
“I think it went really well,” Fluellen said. “I love to do the camp. I look forward to it every year. Leading up to it it’s a lot of work and it’s a little stressful, but coming out here and having no kids get hurt, it’s worth it. It’s such a blessing.”
For both, recollections of glory on the Weinman Stadium field came rushing back.
“There are a lot of good memories here,” Fluellen said. “Actually one of my coaches called me the other day and reminded me of one. There was a game against Pepperell High School when I was playing. I was the leading scorer as a defensive lineman and so I just thought about that when I walked in here.”
Fluellen is currently a free agent and played for the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions in 2012. Brown is a member of the San Diego Chargers.
“I still have the highlight tape from that ‘99 season,” Brown said. “Every now and then I pop it into the computer and just watch it and reminisce because the NFL is a little different. You don’t grow up with the guys so the bond isn’t as strong as it is in high school. I enjoyed it and it was a great experience to win the high school championship.”
Saturday’s event started at 9 a.m. The campers started out stretching and then went into work where they moved from station to station to receive individual attention from Carlos Rogers (San Francisco 49ers), Jason Campbell (Cleveland Browns), Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (retired) and Sammie Hill (Tennessee Titans).
“Each year the goal is to try to give the kids something to look forward to in the summer and get an opportunity to meet some NFL players,” Brown said. “It feels good to come back to Cartersville. This is where it started for me growing up. I started playing rec ball here and grew up here, so to be able to give back is special.”
Memories were certainly made among the kids in attendance.
“Being able to work with Ronnie Brown and all of the players was really cool,” Dylan Forman, a 12-year-old football player from Cartersville, said. “They taught me how to get quicker and just a bunch of new skills. They told us if you don’t do well in school, then you won’t get to do what they got to do and play in the NFL.”
Xavior Coaxum will be a freshman football player at Cartersville High next year.
“Everything was fun,” Coaxum said. “I learned techniques on how to run and how to do drills.”
Fluellen was energized and working hard to give the campers a good experience, but also a little nervous.
“I feel like I’m playing a game,” Fluellen said. “This is my baby. After the first whistle, it settles down like it always does.”
Fluellen and Brown say they plan to continue to offer the camps in the summer for years to come.
“It’s great when it’s done, because there is a lot of pressure to make it run smoothly and things like that. It’s a little nerve-racking, but after it’s done, seeing the kids have a good time and the camp is successful, that’s when I get the enjoyment out of it,” Fluellen said. “I just wanted an opportunity to give back. I’m blessed to be from Cartersville and Bartow County and to be with people who raised me outside of my parents, so it’s just a way to give back to them. It’s not the most grand thing in the world, but it’s something that doesn’t really happen in small cities anymore.”
Fluellen, Brown and Campbell remember a similar opportunity they had as youngsters while growing up in Cartersville.
“The only thing like it in Cartersville was the Eddie Lee Wilkins summer basketball camp,” Fluellen said. “Everybody did it. It didn’t matter if you played football, badminton, hockey, everybody went to the Eddie Lee Wilkins basketball camp.”
“When we were kids, I remember going to Steve McNair camps,” Campbell said. “Hopefully these kids get the opportunity to see who we are and where we come from. [Cartersville] is almost like where I’m from so I can relate a whole lot. Like Ronnie said, this is a community where everyone comes out to the games on Friday and supports the team. It’s the same atmosphere.”
Brown hopes the campers will learn certain lessons as they grow up in Bartow County.
“We just try to come out and interact with the kids and try to be an inspiration,” Brown said. “We try letting them know that no matter where you are from, you still have an opportunity to be successful, whether it’s in sports or anything in life.”