However, no matter how successful the high school football programs have been, rarely does Cartersville have three Pro Bowlers and seven current or former NFL players on the same field.
That was the case Saturday at the Weinman Stadium practice field when former Cartersville High and current NFL players Andre Fluellen and Ronnie Brown held their fourth annual summer youth football camp.
“I think it went real well,” Brown said. “The kids had fun. That’s the No. 1 priority on the list.”
“I think [the campers] had more fun for whatever reason. The excitement was really high this year,” Fluellen said. “It worked out perfect. I’m always a little nervous at first, but as soon as we get into things, it works as usual. I’m just so glad for it to be a nice day. Even when the sun came out, it wasn’t too hot. I was a little nervous about the practice field, but it worked out.”
Campers were separated into different age groups and traveled from station to station, learning a new skill at each one.
This year, the camp added a new dimension with a cheer and dance camp, hosted by Dallas Cowboys dancer Brittani Richards. The cheer and dance camp reached its maximum registration number.
“I am completely shocked. I would have been fine with 10. I’m so happy that we got 100,” Richards said of the turnout. “They were amazing today and hopefully it continues to grow.
“I helped Andre out in 2012 and I saw little girls watching their brothers and I was like, ‘They should do something,’ and so we had a cheer camp.”
Richards said the young cheerleaders were receptive to the coaching at the camp.
“Today we talked about cheer technique, their jumps, their motions, their image, as far as body language and making sure they’re always staying pleasant because all eyes are always on them, being cheerleaders and ambassadors of their sport,” Richards said of what the girls learned. “Then we worked on their stunts, some girls who were able to tumble, and then we made a small little routine for them, so they got a full-on camp experience. I think they did great.”
Among the NFL players present at the football camp was all-pro Detroit Lions receiver and the NFL’s single-season receiving yards record holder Calvin Johnson.
“I’ve been playing with Andre for a couple of years now, and Ronnie, we have the same trainer in the offseason,” Johnson said. “I see they’re doing a great thing in the community and I wanted to participate as well, just to come out here and show my face, get the kids in good spirits, talked to a lot of them to get their grades up and things of that nature.”
“It shows what kind of guy Calvin is,” Fluellen said. “He didn’t have to come. He said he would like to. He’s a man of his word. I really appreciate him coming and having him as a teammate because that’s just the kind of guy he is all the time.”
Future Woodland High wide receiver Zach Pitner was one of several campers who got to meet and take a picture with Johnson. Pitner said he learned a lot from the camp that he will take with him into his freshman season with the Wildcats.
“It’s amazing. That’s my dream right there, him and [Atlanta Falcons receiver] Roddy White,” Pitner said while pointing to Johnson. “I learned that you have to play hard and work hard to get where you want to be and be like him.”
Cartersville rising junior running back Tiamon Pennymon was helping out at the camp and also was impressed to see Johnson.
“It’s nice to see someone who’s big like that come and support the kids out here,” Pennymon said.
Former Pro bowler and current Oakland Raiders cornerback Carlos Rogers, free agent defensive tackle DeMario Pressley, Chicago Bear Landon Cohen and former Detroit Lion Rudy Hardy were all in attendance at camp and helped teach campers fundamentals at their respective stations.
“I’ve been here since they started four years ago. Anytime you’re doing something with kids, they just enjoy being around you. Any time my friends or Ronnie is having something, I’ll do it,” Rogers, who was a college teammate of Brown’s at Auburn, said. “I’m from Augusta and we didn’t have many camps like this. So many times, kids just see us on TV and you don’t have a chance to interact with them. Anytime I can get those kids to do something I wasn’t able to do, it’s a great thing.”
First-year Cartersville head coach Joey King also was impressed by the camp and believes the event reflects positively on the Cartersville football program as well as Brown and Fluellen’s dedication to the community.
“It’s great with Ronnie and Andre willing to give back. That’s what you want, people coming back to the community they grew up in and giving back — businessmen, but especially football players who are still playing,” King said. “These kids look up at these NFL guys. They’re heroes in their eyes. Ronnie says, ‘It’s good for us to come back to let these kids know that they should have big dreams and to shoot for the stars.’ It’s really encouraging.”
Brown and Fluellen hope to continue the tradition in future years and have considered a few changes to enhance the experience for the participants.
“We’ve talked about making it a two-day camp,” Fluellen said. “That might be in the works a little later on.”