Playing with the pros

Dirt and sweat flew everywhere Saturday morning at Lumberton High School, as Terek Jones battled his brother Michael in a lineman relay race.

Terek’s team came up short, but that didn’t bother the 15-year-old.

“We were going at it, competing to do what we could to get better,” Jones said. “I saw my brother over there and it was just fun competing.”

The two made the trip from Wake Forest High School in Wake County, roughly two hours from Lumberton, to participate in the 10th-annual Vonta Leach Foundation Youth Football and Cheer Camp.

Steven Baker, an offensive lineman with the St. Louis Rams, was impressed with the level of competition within his group of linemen, which included Terek.

“We took the loss, but we know where we made our mistakes so we’ll be ready for them next year,” Baker said. “We had a real good turnout. There was a lot of energy from good kids. It’s great to be able to teach them and point them in the right direction.”

Baker was among a crowd of current and former NFL players who helped coach several hundred players at the annual camp. Inside the gym, kids got to learn a dance choreographed by former Charlotte Hornets cheerleaders.

The camps are organized by Leach, a free-agent fullback and former Super Bowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens who is originally from Rowland. A casino night fundraiser take place Friday.

“It was a great weekend,” Leach said. “A lot of people came out to casino night and the camp. We just had a good time.”

Leach led the largest — and youngest — group in a series of drills.

“The young guys have a lot of energy,” he said. “I’m patient, so I want the other NFL players working with the older guys. It’s always a good time going out there to hang out and teach (the younger kids) a little something.”

For Derrick Arnette of Fairmont, the experience of working with the pros is something he won’t soon forget. As a player with hopes of becoming a great wide receiver, Arnette was able to work with former NFL first-round pick Peter Warrick.

“I learned a lot of stuff today,” Arnette said. “(The pros) taught me how to do a curl route. I’ve never done that before, so it means something to me. I want to try and be like them one day.”

Mike Karney, an All-Pro fullback who played for seven seasons in the NFL, made the trek from southern California to help with the camp. Karney flew all day on Friday in order to make it in time for both of Leach’s events.

“Vonta has been trying to get me to come out here for years,” said Karney, who played with the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams. “Once I got out here the adrenaline kicked in and it was like the old times. We want to come and help out with what he wants to accomplish here in the community. It’s about giving back to these kids, teaching them the game of football, but also learning about life. We’re all here to help Vonta. I had a lot of fun.”

Karney was also glad to be reunited with what he dubbed his “fullback brothers.”

“William Henderson is here, Vonta is here, those two are arguably the best to play the position,” Karney said. “It’s great to be back with them.”

Henderson, a former Tar Heel and Super Bowl Champion as a fullback for the Green Bay Packers, was working with the older running backs.

For Henderson, it’s an honor to help with the annual camp.

“First of all, I want to thank Vonta Leach for inviting me to come down to Robeson County to help out with his hometown,” Henderson said. “I’m so impressed with the young men here. They’re coming energetic, polite and they’re more than willing to work. That just tells you the quality of people in the town.”

“I love the game of football. It teaches kids community, it teaches them responsibility and it teaches them how to give 100 percent effort. I got nothing but 100 percent effort from the young men.”

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