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Four-year NFL cornerback Kennard Cox was full of energy Saturday morning as he began running the annual Camp No Excuses football clinic at Palmer Park in South Miami.
Cox also was feeling plenty of gratitude for the Miami Dolphins for sending about two dozen of their rookies and first-year players to the event. In fact, Cox was so thankful he joked that the only way the Dolphins could have helped out more would have been to also sign him to a contract.
Among the Dolphins players on hand for the third Camp No Excuses clinic were draft picks
Cox, a 27-year-old native of Miami, spent two seasons each with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Seattle Seahawks, but he was out of the NFL in 2012 after being cut by Seattle. He is the founder of Outside the Huddle, an organization whose mission is to “enhance the quality of life for the youth and families through the promotion of Academics, Athletics, and Mentoring. Which will encourage the youth to see challenges as possibilities, not as personal obstacles.”
The executive director of the Outside the Huddle is Tiffany Morris, former Miami Dolphins Cheerleader and daughter of former Dolphins running back Mercury Morris.
“Being a foundation that’s supported by football and mentoring through athletics, there’s nothing better than to have the home team come out and support us,” Tiffany Morris said. “We’ve had players from the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, so to be able to have the Miami Dolphins, which is our heart, being out here is fantastic.”
For the young Dolphins players, the event represented a chance to give back to the community. It also was a chance for many of them to be on the other side after attending football clinics themselves as children.
“I definitely enjoy giving back, trying to feed kids the knowledge that we learned in college and growing up,” said Taylor, a second-round pick from Boise State. “You can feed that back to them at a young age, (so) they’ll already be one step ahead.”
Undrafted free agent
There was something different about attending a clinic as an NFL player, though.
“It’s a completely different feel,” Francis said. “When you come from college, a lot of kids already assume that they’re going to the NFL. When they assume they’re going to the NFL, then college, they’re just, ‘Oh, you play college, I’m going to do that one day, too.’ To them it’s not that big a deal. But when you come back and you’re in the NFL, and these kids see you and you play on an NFL team — even though you might not even end up making the team — just the fact that they see you and they’re like, wow, he’s on the Dolphins, that gives them a different perspective on what you have to say.
“It’s more of a sense of bewilderment.”
Approximately 200 kids from the elementary, middle school and high school levels attended the free clinic.
The Dolphins players arrived by bus at about 8:30 a.m. and were brought on stage at the auditorium inside Palmer Park for photos with the campers. Cox then spoke to the clinic attendees about his journey from troubled youth — he said he had a teacher tell him once he wouldn’t make it to 21 — to NFL player.
Cox’s message throughout: There are no excuses.
“My whole ballgame is stressing the kids’ minds first as individuals and letting them know there’s no excuses in life,” Cox said later. “I’m just trying they meet their full potential in life.”
After Cox spoke, the clinic attendees went out onto the field, followed by the Dolphins players.
The Dolphins became involved in the event after Mercury Morris reached out to former teammate Nat Moore, now a Dolphins senior vice president and special advisor. Head Coach Joe Philbin welcomed the opportunity for the rookies to work in the community with members of the team's alumni.
“I gotta thank Nat Moore for this,” Mercury Morris said. “He brought these guys out. Nat is a great community guy and he’s in charge of the Dolphins alumni. I reached out to him on behalf on my daughter and he responded to me immediately and had all these rookies come out.
“I think it was great that they did that and to bring them into the community first, let me see first-hand what this is like being in Miami and being part of what they’re doing out here.”
Wearing a Still Perfect hat and shirt to commemorate the Dolphins’ 17-0 Super Bowl season of 1972, Morris addressed the Dolphins rookies on hand as they sat on a bleacher.
When he was done, Morris made sure to show everyone his Super Bowl VII ring, one of two he earned with the Dolphins.
“I left the other one at home … I didn’t want to show off,” Morris joked.
Morris’ overall message to the players was clear. They represent the future and the start of a new Dolphins era, what with the changes in the logo and uniform. The Super Bowl ring, though, probably had the biggest impact.
“I was paying attention, but at the beginning it was hard because I was looking at that ring,” said Davis, a third-round pick from Utah State. “I was like, man, he was part of that team. I was just kind of envisioning it. I tell you right there, he got the ring. That’s something not a lot of men do. It’s hard enough to make it here, to get a ring is almost ... I can’t even imagine what the percentages is on that, to make it in the NFL, let alone get a Super Bowl ring.”
The focus on this day, though, was on the kids. And Dolphins players were watching closely when the high school players held a competition where three boys would do a three-cone drill at the same time.
The presence of those Dolphins players just made a great event even greater.
“I just want to tell the Miami Dolphins organization, I want thank you very much,” Cox said. “The only thing that could be (better) is if I sign with them. On a serious note, I appreciate them very much. It’s an honor to have them support what I’m doing, what OTH is doing as a unit.”