Saturday, 11 July 2020 21:53

Ellerbe says 'it just made sense' to cancel annual FUNdamentals camp amid virus

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Former NFL linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, pictured here during 2019's camp, said there will not be a camp this year because of the coronavirus. Former NFL linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, pictured here during 2019's camp, said there will not be a camp this year because of the coronavirus. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — For the first time in eight years, local youth football players won’t get the chance to hang out with and work on their skills alongside Dannell Ellerbe.

The two-time Super Bowl winning linebacker, who now enjoys retirement after nine NFL seasons, announced via a video on Instagram Friday that his annual FUNdamentals camp has been canceled.

Ellerbe and his wife, Shervella, started the camp in 2012 as a way to give back to his home community. A Hamlet native, Ellerbe graduated from Richmond Senior High School in 2004 before playing at the University of Georgia.

He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009, where he spent four seasons and won Super Bowl XLVII over the San Francisco 49ers. 

After stints with the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints, Ellerbe ended his career by signing with the Philadelphia Eagles and helped them defeat the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl LII in Feb. 2018.

“I hate that we all can’t get together this year,” Ellerbe said in a phone call with ROSports. “But this was the smartest thing to do with the virus is going around.

“The safety of the kids is always the top priority,” he added. “I didn’t want anyone to come to camp and contract the virus. It just made sense to me to cancel it this year.” 

The past couple of summers, between 250 and 350 athletes ages six to 17 from the greater Sandhills area have come out and participated in the free camp on Richmond’s practice fields. But as the COVID-19 crisis continues to impact sports at all levels, Ellerbe’s camp became the latest casualty.

Every summer, Ellerbe looks forward to returning home to help continue building the brand of Raider football that he was accustomed to as a high school player.

“Right now, my camp is the biggest thing I do since I retired,” Ellerbe explained. “I love to come home and give back, it’s my favorite thing to do.

“As much as I was looking forward to it, I wouldn’t want my kids to go to a camp or school right now,” he continued. “So, I definitely don’t want to put anyone else’s kid(s) at risk.

Not only does the annual camp give youth football players a chance to build their skills, it also gives them a chance to meet other current and former NFL players. Last year, Ellerbe invited Jonathan Freeny (free agent), Jameel McClain (former Baltimore Ravens teammate) and Tariq Edwards (former Miami Dolphins teammate), among others.

Ellerbe also had former RSHS teammates Alex Coulthard and Timothy McCaskill helping out around the practice fields. Each camp is always capped with a “fastest player race,” followed by an autograph session with Ellerbe and all his helpers.

“I want the kids to know that I still want them to take everything they’ve learned from my previous camps and use it,” Ellerbe said. “Right now it’s about what they do when no one is looking. I hope they’ll go out, work on their own and get better right.

“It’s unfortunate for all the kids, especially the ones whose last year was this year,” he closed. “But our plan is to come back next year, and hopefully it’s two times bigger.”


Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_