Over the weekend, formerTiger Football players returned to campus to host a free football camp for children grades 9-12 at the University of Memphis practice facilities. The Phenomenal Pros Foundation is made up Tiger greats Marcus Bell (‘97-‘00), Reggie Howard (‘98-‘99), 2-time pro bowler and first round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs Dontari Poe (‘09-‘11), as well as long-time Carolina Panther and current Steeler Deangelo Williams (‘02-‘05) who finished 2nd in Heisman and is still all-time Tiger leading rusher.
Each year, the group returns to Memphis in an effort to give back to city which has given them support throughout their careers. With a camp averaging around 200 kids, the group hosts some preliminary events aimed at raising funds to offset costs associated with this event as well two others: Back to School Shopping and Christmas in Memphis.
This weekend’s events provided several opportunities for former players to reunite, members of the community to share in friendly competitions, and everyone to have a good time.
The golf scramble, held Friday morning at Stone bridge Golf Club, had 18 teams including former players from the Tiger football teams of 80s, 90s, and 2000s. The unanimous highlight of the event was the “Heckle Hole,” a newly formed tradition hosted and created by Deangelo. “I know [they] have all yelled at me for costing their team something in either fantasy football or us beating their team; so, this was my time to give it back to them,” said Deangelo at the closing awards ceremony. Nyrone Hawkins, a former lineman in 1990 and current Executive Director of the First Tee organization, bragged on one of his young golfers, “all the groups, and only one person was able to withstand the pressure, and she took a bow after hitting dead center in the fairway about 200 to 250 yards out there. It was all in good fun, and we enjoyed the event.”
Later that evening, the Phenomenal Pros reconvened at Billy Hardwick Bowling Lanes where almost completely different group of former players and community business people came out in support of the organization. Each team bowled two games and the overall winners were announced at the end of the event.
Completely family oriented, attendees started at 6 weeks old and went up to the most tenured Tiger Fans. Raffle prizes for all events included autographed trading cards, posters, cleats, gloves, jerseys, among other great door prizes. Everywhere you looked the hosts were taking pictures with people of the event, hanging out with old friends and meeting the newest members of Tiger Nation.
The camp was held on the turf field at the University of Memphis south campus. The Phenomenal Pros were joined by high local high school coaches, many of who were former Tigers, and together they instructed close to 200 young athletes. Current Ridgeway High School Head Coach Duron Sutton (‘95-‘96) and former Wooddale High School head coach Keith Spann (‘93-‘96) as well as former Ridgeway Head Coach Rod Brown (’90-’93) were joined by other past players Joe Doss (04-07), and Rico Mathis (07-08). Jermaine Chambers (03-06) was ever present taking pictures to document the event.
Bell, the chief organizer of the weekend said he was pleased with the attendance and community support. “This is an event that I believe should carry on long after we are gone.” He continued, “hosting the event at the University of Memphis is symbolic of the starting point for all of us and we want the young men of Memphis to have similar experience in their lives starting with getting a college degree. Whether they play college football and go on to be the next member of the Phenomenal Pros or their High School days are their last day as an athlete, we want the opportunity to give them the foundation of education should be their first goal.
Having the free clinic this weekend is only one of three major events sponsored in the Memphis area throughout the year where we get an opportunity to give back to the City which has given us so much support and hopefully make a difference in young men’s life. This is an annual event held the weekend after Father’s Day. We look forward to next year and having our greatest Tigers around again and hopefully we can add to the roster of past players come out and participate.”