CLEARWATER — Schenique Harris has had one requirement for her son since he started playing youth football. He was obligated to give something back to the community. Whether it was going to visit the elderly or visiting sick children, Harris made him do it.
Now Harris' son, Leonard Johnson, is heading into his senior year at Iowa State University, where he plays cornerback. At his North Greenwood home for the summer, Johnson has been given the same mandate. He must do something for the community.
So, on Sunday afternoon, Johnson and several of his friends will host a free football camp. Johnson's friends are also current college football players and former local high school football standouts. The event, dubbed C&C Football Camp, will be held at Clearwater Intermediate School, which is in the North Greenwood community.
"My mother taught me early about giving back," Harris said. "He's (Johnson) in a privileged situation, so it's vital and essential that he talks about what it takes to get there. Our youth need to hear it."
Not only will the players discuss football techniques, but they will also discuss the importance of staying in school and off the streets, listening to teachers and the value of hard work. In addition, the family of Adrian Anderson will address the participants about the effects of violence on the community. A basketball standout, Anderson was murdered in July 1995 right before he was to start his freshman year at Dunedin High. He was 13.
"We do have some young men doing some positive things in our community," said Harris, 39. "I want the kids of our community to think outside the box. I want them to understand and to see that it's possible to go to college and that you can achieve great things in life."
Johnson, 21, was a stellar Largo High quarterback before heading to Iowa State. He reached out to several friends from the area who will join him Sunday.
Jarvis West and Jeremiah George, who both play at Iowa State, will be there. Brynn Harvey of Largo, who's now a running back at the University of Central Florida, will participate.
Mike Marry, a Largo High graduate who plays for the University of Mississippi, and Malcolm Holmes of Bethune-Cookman University will be there. Alex Dixon, a recent Countryside High graduate who will attend the University of North Carolina this fall on a football scholarship, will also participate.
Johnson is a 2011 candidate for the coveted Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the best defensive back in college football. He admitted that he wasn't always the best student. But he said he then realized the best thing for him to do was to reach out to his teachers and professors and to surround himself with positive people.
"It's simple, the sky is the limit," Johnson said. "A lot of kids grow up on the corner chasing cars, selling drugs. Hopefully, they see us come back, that can give them some hope."
George, 19, and a 2010 Clearwater High graduate, agreed.
"It's my turn to be the person that some of the kids look up to," George said. "But the biggest thing is the connection. We know what they are going through and we can relate."
Contact Demorris A. Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-445-4174