Almost 200 local children could be seen on the football field at E. E. Robinson Park in Sugar Hill enthusiastically going through football drill after football drill on Friday, June 17.
The drills were part of a community outreach effort between Carolina Panthers’ defensive tackle Derrick Brown, the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office and the NFL Players Foundation. Any boy or girl age 8 to 17 could attend the three-hour long Derrick Brown Free Football Camp where they were able to learn from Brown, as well as the coaching staff from Lanier High School. The children were given a free camp T-shirt, a meal from Chick-fil-A and a swag bag.
Brown, a Sugar Hill native and a graduate of Lanier High School, offered the camp for the second consecutive year. The partnership with the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office came about because his father works for that department.
“It is very important for me to be out here and do these things (outreach programs),” Brown said. “It is important to give back to these kids and to be able to include the Sheriff’s Office out here. It is important to show the kids that cops aren’t bad. That’s the big lesson that we are trying to get out here.”
Gwinnett County Sheriff Keybo Taylor, who was a coach in the Gwinnett Football League for many years, lives for events like this. He said his deputies really enjoy the camp with some of them even helping with the drills.
“This is what I call a lifeline. This has been my history, this is what I did,” Taylor said. “I started doing this, coaching football long before I ever got into law enforcement. So this is just like not really work, it’s like a passion or a ministry for me. Even though I was able to step away, to do a lot of different things, somehow along the way, we always got back to this. This (the camp/community outreach) is the root of what we do.”
Even though Brown graduated from Lanier in 2016, he and his family are still very much rooted to Sugar Hill. The Brown family was out at the camp as his wife, son and daughter, along with his parents, were in attendance Friday night.
“This is my city, this is where I grew up,” Brown said. “So this is where I come back to, where I come work out at. This is where I hang out. This is where I bring my kids back to be able to see what their dad did when I was younger. It’s a special moment, a special feeling to be able to come back, to be welcomed with open arms.”
His alma mater, Lanier. has a new head coach, Tyler Maloof, at the helm of its football program this year. It is Maloof’s first year as a head coach having previously been an assistant coach at Norcross High School under his father, Keith Maloof. Tyler Maloof and Brown were able to get acquainted with one another in preparation for the camp and for Brown to be able to continue to be involved with the program at Lanier.
“We had a turnover with the high school staff and the new staff welcomed me in,” Brown said. “They allowed me to still come in and talk to the players and work with the guys and do all that I can.”
With community outreach and giving back so important to both Derrick Brown and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, they intend to bring the camp back again next year, as well as partner up again for the Thanksgiving Food Giveaway.
FEATURED PHOTO ABOVE: Carolina Panthers’ defensive tackle Derrick Brown (gray shirt on right) watches as a camper completes a drill. Photo by Alicia Payne.