Players Spend Offseason Hosting Camps For Children

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Raekwon McMillan didn't prepare a speech for the kids who showed up at his football camp at Liberty County High School in Hinesville, Georgia, on the next-to-last Saturday of June. He did, however, have more than six hours to think about what he would say as he drove from South Florida the night before the event because his flight out of Fort Lauderdale was canceled.

Even though he had joined other Dolphins players that Friday night in the South Florida Hope to Dream Sleepover at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University, McMillan was not missing his camp, nor was he canceling it or postponing it.

So he got in his car, drove all night, and made it to Hinesville at 4 in the morning.

When he delivered his message to players about not making excuses, McMillan had just provided a great example.

"I put on the camp for the kids and I think it was big for me to be there personally," McMillan said. "It would have been a different impact if I wasn't there. I just wanted to show the kids that it's a no-excuse type of mentality that I have. Even if my plane got canceled, I had to make it there."McMillan was among the baker's dozen Dolphins players who conducted or participated in football camps in June or July in places ranging from Detroit to Puerto Rico, with several other locations in between.

Those involved in camps included, in alphabetical order, Kiko Alonso (Puerto Rico), Stephone Anthony (North Carolina), Davon Godchaux (Louisiana), Frank Gore (Miami), Xavien Howard (Houston), Tony Lippett (Detroit), Robert Quinn (South Carolina), Eric Smith (Miami), Cordrea Tankersley (South Carolina), Vincent Taylor (San Antonio), Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Florida), and Albert Wilson (Port St. Lucie).

The common theme among the players was giving back to the community where they grew up and show the kids that dreams can come true if you work hard enough.

"Growing up, I never really had a camp to go to where I was from," McMillan said. "Any camp that I went to was either four hours away in Atlanta or somewhere in Florida. We didn't have the opportunity to showcase our talent in home, where I'm from. It was a big thing for me to come back and to give back. I could have done it anywhere else. I could have done it down here in Florida. Could have done up in Columbus at Ohio State, but I decided to go back home."

It also was important for the players to be there and give the kids a chance to interact with an NFL player.

"The first NFL player I ever saw was in the locker room," Wilson said after his camp. "So for them to be so young, and to see people like me and my teammates come out here, definitely gives them a dream, and shows them that (anything is) possible."

"The thing my coaches always stressed to me was giving of yourself and your time," Godchaux told the Acadania Advocate after his camp at Plaquemine High in Louisiana. "Anybody can write a check. To be back and to be able to give back to the place where I grew up means everything."

There was an additional bonus for Howard when he conducted his camp at Wheatley High in Houston on June 30, the participation of his younger brother, Keith Collins, an incoming senior at Wheatley who stars in football and basketball.

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"I don't want him or anyone to follow the wrong steps in life, because it's easy to do," Howard told the Houston Chronicle. "And it's hard to find your way out of those situations. I'm not special. What I have done, can be done. They need to see that, they need to know that, they need to hear it. It's easier to influence the people you're around. That's what this camp is all about."

Howard's message centered around making the right choices, in essence echoing McMillan's words of no excuses.

"I hope kids at the camp grab some motivation that they can do it, no matter what you're going through, what situation you're in, what you're being told, you can still succeed," Howard said. "I had a lot of homeboys who got caught up on the wrong path.

"It is easy to be influenced by what is perceived as the cool thing to do. I want these kids to see me, coming from where they are from, with what they have and don't have, and see that they can be different. Do something different than people expect. That's what's cool."

For Quinn, this was his sixth camp, and he teamed with Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap for his football and cheer camp at Fort Dorchester High School in Charleston, South Carolina.

Taylor conducted his second annual Ball Out Camp at James Madison High School in San Antonio before he took part in a charity bowling event later that night.

He promised a bigger and better camp next year, though he told FOX San Antonio he didn't want to provide details at this time.

For Alonso, conducting a football camp in Puerto Rico has become an annual event. His father is from the island territory and he raised funds last September after Puerto Rico was ravage by Hurricane Maria.

Like Taylor, Lippett was conducting his football camp for the second year.

"I would like to thank everyone that provided services toward my camp this past weekend," Lippett tweeted after the event. "This movement is for the kids and I'm going to continue to use my platform to educate the youth and let them see that there is a way out NO MATTER YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES."

Lippett put it perfectly when he said the camps are for the kids.

These Dolphins players have not forgotten they once were kids who looked up to NFL players dreaming of one day being in their shoes.

"It was a good response," McMillan said. "I got 200, 300 kids out there. They all came out and competed. I kind of did drills with them as well. It was a good opportunity for them to see me out there working with them and show them that I actually do come in and put in the work and everything I've gotten so far I've worked for.

"My whole message to them was no excuses. I could have made excuses when I was growing up that we didn't have much and I didn't have the opportunity to showcase my talent to the whole world, but I made a way through a lot of help through my coaches and my mentors and my family. I was able to make it to where I am today without any excuses. I just put my head down and worked."

No excuses.

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