Former Daphne head football coach Glenn Vickery wasn’t surprised at all to see four current NFL players return to their high school on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
“These guys were always those types of people,” Vickery said. “They were the kids who weren’t afraid to interact with the middle school players, to talk at the elementary school. They knew what type of influence they could have on younger kids then and they still do today.”
Ryan Anderson, T.J. Yeldon, Eric Lee and Michael Pierce were in town Saturday to invest in Daphne’s younger generation. The Daphne NFL Alumni Youth Football Camp, originally scheduled for Trione Park, was pushed into the Daphne gymnasium by heavy rain. However, the foursome still took pictures with fans, handed out autographs and even played a little basketball.
“This is our community,” said Anderson, now with the Washington Redskins. “We feel like it is our responsibility to come back and give back as best we can. We are just trying to build bridges and motivate these kids any way we can while we can.”
Pierce, now with the Baltimore Ravens, said it was a no-brainer to come back.
“It’s something I’ve always liked to do,” he said. “I grew up in Mobile and we had a lot of guys come back. I think it made your dreams feel tangible. You get to see people who grew up how you grew up, played in the same park leagues, went through the same process you’ve been through and they ultimately achieved their dreams. Our message is, ‘You can as well.’”
Yeldon was Alabama’s Mr. Football in 2011, signed with Alabama, was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars and, this offseason, signed with the Buffalo Bills. He said it’s easy for him to identify with the youth who came out to the Daphne gym on Saturday.
“I’ve been where they are,” he said. “We all have. Anything we can do to help these kids chase their dreams is worth doing 100 percent of the time.”
Lee said it was disappointing not to have the camp as planned, but he and his friends were still glad to come back and contribute.
“We are blessed to still be able to play the game,” he said. “We all have different stories. Being able to tell that story and identify with different kids is important.
“We couldn’t do the camp because of the rain today but at least we wanted to show our faces and sign things and show appreciation to the community that helped get us where we are today. It’s only right that we do something for them.”
Vickery said the gesture means a great deal to the community and its children.
“I think it gives them great hope, encouragement,” he said. “They see people like that and want their autograph. They get a pat on back, a picture and some good advice from guys who came from their neighborhood and made it in the sport they want to play. It’s invaluable.”