PENROSE PARK – It isn’t every day that little league football players get coached by a pro. But that was the play Saturday for about 800 youths as Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott returned to Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club for a free camp.
The camp included field work, direct interaction, dining, photos and autographs. On the field they, of course, stretched, ran plays and drills.
“Having this football camp for people who want to play is just so nice,” said camp attendee Steven Clark, 11.
“I learned the right position (defensive lineman) and stance,” Clark said, adding that it was an honor just to meet Elliott.
For the hometown, larger-than-life sports figure, giving back to the community that he grew up in is a winner.
“St. Louis is really close to my heart,” Elliott said, standing on the north St. Louis field where it all started for him.
“This field right here is where I scored my first touchdown. … It’s a great feeling to know that it all started here and I’m able to come back and do something special for the kids and give them a special day.”
Being on the field brought back a lot of memories for Elliott. It’s where he met many people who are still his friends, some of whom were assisting with the camp.
“Through this game, I was able to create some of the most important relationships that I have in my life, so it’s just great to be back,” he said.
Some of his lasting relationships have been with former coaches. One, Raeffel Merriweather, is now athletic director for the club, and he made the momentous day run smoothly. Another, Alvarez Jackson, who coached Elliott from age 7 to 13, drilled and coached campers.
They both said they weren’t surprised that Elliott was giving back.
“His family background, his mother, his father. It’s what they stand for,” Jackson said. “And he’s always been a good person, always been an unselfish person, always been a team player.” Jackson added that it was amazing to see the boy who used to get out of the back seat of his car coming out of the Dallas Cowboys locker room.
Merriweather said Elliott was adamant about making the camp free.
“This is not a sponsored camp, it’s a camp that he’s paying for himself, and it has everything that you would like to have to make it fun for kids,” Merriweather said.
Elliott also reached out to “homie” and fellow NFLer Foye Oluokun, linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, who obliged and was on the field doing his thing with the campers.
“To see these guys who have been in the league, who have been in their shoes … it’s great, it’s something I wish I did as a kid, and I’m happy I’m able to provide it for them,” said Oluokun, who graduated from John Burroughs in 2013.
“When you see us make it this far, it means we’re succeeding, so I think that’s the most important thing – that people give back, because it’s a hotbed of talent.”
Jackson said that Elliott was actually multi-talented and was a beast on defense, and that his talent didn’t come up short in baseball.
“Believe it or not, baseball is one of his best sports; we thought he was going to go pro in baseball, but his love is for football.”
Corey Jackson, who brought his son out for camp, said he just wanted to thank Elliott for showing love for the community.
“We need this, St. Louis doesn’t get this opportunity. … I think it will give him (his son) a big boost of confidence to see someone on TV to be out here working with him hand in hand,” Jackson said.
It probably won’t be the last time St. Louis youths get a chance to get up close and personal with one of their hometown heroes.
Last year, Elliott took Mathews-Dickey football players who were on their way to the high school level to a Dallas Cowboys game, something that Coach Timothy Pitts, said was very exciting for the youths.
Pitts, who coached during the camp, said, “He’s always doing something for the club and the community.”