Tuesday, July 15, 2014
The premiere Ellington Elite Football Camp was part clinic, part football training camp, part motivational group therapy session, part tent revival ...
And part family reunion.
Cousins Andre and Bruce Ellington’s camp at Berkeley High School’s Gerald Moody Field was as much about teaching life lessons as developing football fundamentals.
“I was in this game for 15 years before I ever earned my first dollar,” said Camp Head Coach Preston Thorne, a former Summerville and USC standout, to the nearly 700 young football players gathered in a group around him on Friday, June 11. “You have to look life right in the eye and never quit. You have to listen. You have to be coachable.
“This isn’t just about football, this is about life and the key to succeeding in life is to never, ever quit.”
With close to 750 young football players between the ages of six and 16 cramming the field where both Ellingtons starred during their prep days, the size of the camp and the sheer volume of players and coaches attending defied description and exceeded all expectations.
“This is what people mean when they say, ‘Berkeley Football,’ ” said former Stags Coach Jerry Brown. “This is about the community coming together, about the amazing Ellington families, about the character that is Andre and Bruce Ellington.
“At no other school in Berkeley County could anyone have pulled off a camp of this magnitude other than the Ellingtons or Berkeley High School. You won’t see anything like this at other schools. This is what Berkeley Football is all about.”
Camp coordinator Ashley Ellington merely smiled at the challenges facing him on the night before the camp, but as the camp ran like clockwork in mild temperatures and a refreshing, sprinkling rain at BHS on Friday morning, even he was amazed.
“We did it,” he said. “I was confident we could, but even this exceeds all our expectations. The turnout was unreal. The community support from former players and coaches is overwhelming.”
A former collegiate player at Middle Tennessee State in his own right, Ashley said as he ran off to assist at the next workout station, “This is just the first annual Ellington Camp. We will be back next year for sure.”
Five of the camp coaches, three alone from Berkeley, had places on NFL rosters this summer: Andre with Arizona, Bruce with the 49ers, Deandre “Nuk” Hopkins with Houston, Omar Brown, and his Super Bowl ring, with Baltimore, and Tajh Boyd with the Jets.
Bruce worked with the receivers and then roamed from camp station to camp station, besieged by moms and dads seeking memorabilia autographs for their kids.
“This is just amazing,” Bruce said. “I’m speechless. The support, the turnout, this is a great event for the community and the kids. We wanted to do this for the kids.”
Andre spent much of his time in front of television cameras doing interviews.
“We want to keep football alive here in Moncks Corner and at Berkeley,” he said. “We want to give back to the community.”
When asked if the turnout surprised him, Andre merely chuckled and said, “Amazing.”