Pros head home to Daniel for football camp
By Eric Sprott
CENTRAL — When he was growing up, DeShawn Williams didn’t leave any doubt as to who he wanted to emulate on the football field.
That player was Jarvis Jenkins, whose combination of natural ability and massive size — along with a charismatic personality — helped him leave behind a substantial legacy at Daniel High School. Off in the wings, he had a starry eyed admirer in Williams, who going into his freshman year in 2007 was eager to don the No. 99 jersey previously worn by Jenkins.
With Jenkins just down the road starting his freshman year at Clemson — again wearing No. 99 — Williams was deemed worthy of wearing the number, and four years later he again took Jenkins’ number after his career with the Tigers came to an end following the 2010 season.
Back at Daniel on Saturday morning, Williams was working alongside Jenkins — as well as fellow former Daniel and Clemson standout Shaq Lawson — at their third annual alumni football camp and community day, with Williams now obviously viewing Jenkins in a much different light these days.
As defensive linemen in the NFL, Jenkins and Williams — as well as Lawson — view one another as more of equals now. But for the hundreds of campers in attendance, the three are held in the highest regard, which is something hardly lost on Williams.
“I never thought when I was in high school or middle school that I’d have kids look up to me like how I looked up to Jarvis when he was at Clemson and trying to follow in my favorite football player’s footsteps,” said Williams, a fourth-year pro going into his first season with the Denver Broncos. “Now, they’re looking at us just like, ‘Wow, I want to be just like them,’ and that’s just a humbling experience.”
While Houston Texans Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins — the fourth member of the current contingent of former Daniel and Clemson standouts making a living at the game’s highest level — wasn’t able to be in attendance Saturday, Jenkins and company had plenty of other help on hand.
Among those running campers through drills were former Clemson running back Andre Ellington — most recently of the Texans — and former South Carolina defensive end Clifton Geathers, who played for seven teams during his professional career from 2010-15.
Former Tiger linebacker Quandon Christian, along with C.J. Davidson and D.J. Greenlee — who played running back and tight end at Clemson, respectively, after starring at Daniel — were also on hand taking part in the camp, which Jenkins actually began four years ago with Hopkins through his J3 Foundation.
“It’s something that brings me joy, and it’s something I wish I had when I was here,” said Jenkins, who’s going into his eighth NFL season, and his third with the Kansas City Chiefs. “Whether or not I’m in the league, this will always be something I do. It’s just a good thing to get out here and see these kids and let them know there are a lot of eyes on Daniel High School.
“We want to motivate all these young guys coming up because, believe it or not, there will be two or three kids from this camp that’ll be in the NFL before you know it. It’s just a matter of getting them out here and trying to encourage them.”
Daniel head coach Jeff Fruster, members of his staff and a smattering of current Lions were also on hand helping orchestrate the event in steamy conditions Saturday. While Fruster is going into his third season on the job, he was an assistant when Hopkins, Jenkins, Lawson and Williams were coming through school, and he said there was no way to understate the impact the players help make in the community with the camp.
“I think it’s big for the community and for these guys to come and give back to the community that made them,” he said. “That’s always important, and it’s good for our kids to see what it looks like to go through the process that they’re going through and seeing what it can ultimately culminate with.
“That’s big as well, and it’s a good time for the community to get together. That’s the biggest thing.”
And for Lawson, who’s entering his third year with the Buffalo Bills, the camp is an annual reminder of where he came from, and a moment to reflect on his journey to the NFL.
“It’s always great coming back home and giving back to the community, especially to the kids that look up to us and have seen what we’ve done here in the past,” he said. “It means a lot to me personally, because I think about us growing up and not having a football camp like this for you to develop your game and develop habits from former players and things like that.
“This kind of thing makes you appreciate why you really do what you do.”
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