ROCKINGHAM — Now that Dannell Ellerbe is heading to Britney Spears’ home state to play football, it is appropriate to paraphrase one of her top-selling songs.
Ellerbe did it again.
Ellerbe put on his fourth annual football camp Saturday morning at Richmond Senior High School. The former Richmond standout and member of the New Orleans Saints welcomed more than 300 campers to the event.
“We had a good turnout,” Ellerbe said. “Everybody said how surprised they were about the turnout. The kids did great.”
Joining Ellerbe as instructors were members of the Richmond Senior coaching staff including first-year head coach Mike Castellano. Several of Ellerbe’s former high school and college teammates were also helping at the camp as were current members of the Richmond football team.
Justin Jackson, another former Richmond star and current member of the Dallas Cowboys, participated for the first time. He said it was good to be able assist the area’s youth along with Ellerbe.
“It’s always fun to give back,” Jackson said. “It’s really good to give back with others that have come through the same system. It’s a good thing to have all us together and working together to give back to the kids.
“I take a lot of pride in Richmond football. This is where I really got started. I started in Little League over here and was brought up all through the Richmond County system. I feel like Richmond is what got me started on my path to the NFL. Richmond has done a lot for me, so it’s always good to give back to Richmond.”
Senior defensive lineman Davon Stroman added it was great to see players like Ellerbe, Jackson and Melvin Ingram giving back to their communities.
Ingram organized a “Family Fun Day” in Hamlet along with Ellerbe earlier this year.
“It’s great they’re giving back to the community,” Stroman said. “They don’t have to this, they choose to do this. I think it’s a good thing. It’s a good chance for the football players to get to know NFL players and get to know the community.”
The campers rotated to a handful of stations working on different aspects of the game. Earlier in the day, the focus was on offense before switching to defense at the end.
Normally at the end of the camp, Ellerbe addresses the children and talks to them about football as well as the need to be a good student. This year was a little different — he was unable to give his end of the camp talk because, in his words, he was “having too much fun.”
“That’s the main thing that we want to show them, I really didn’t get a chance to talk to them this year because we ran over on time,” Ellerbe said. “We just want to show them that you can be from here and grow up to be successful no matter what you want to do.”
Jackson added the children of Richmond County can use Ellerbe, Ingram and himself as blueprints for succeeding on the football field, but in the classroom as well. Ellerbe graduated from the University of Georgia, Ingram from South Carolina and Jackson from Wake Forest.
“It’s good to set a good example,” Jackson said. “With the three guys we have had make it into the NFL of late, it’s a good example for the kids to follow. Going through Richmond County Schools, getting our grades first and going through college and now getting into the NFL. It shows the kids if you work hard, put your mind to it, you can do it, no matter where you are from.”
Stroman said when he hears Ellerbe and others share these types of messages, it helps him think he can do anything. Even make the NFL.
“If he could do, why can’t I do it?” Stroman said. “It does motivate me every day.”
Reach managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.