Ben Watson's football clinic will be back in town on March 17 for a fifth time.
Watson, a former Northwestern Trojans, Georgia Bulldogs, New England Patriots and current Cleveland Browns tight end, is hoping for good weather. The event and its three sessions are scheduled for Rock Hill's District Three Stadium.
Rain forced the clinic inside last year and although the crowd was good, a scramble to get the word out that the event had been moved to Northwestern's main gym was an adventure.
"I do this for the kids because I feel called to come home and give back," Watson said. "Giving instructions to kids is very enjoyable and I have a great time.
"The ROAR Sports staff does a great job putting this together and helping run it. We have a chance to teach kids football, to meet pro players and to teach them that it's important to put Jesus Christ in the lives."
Watson is in Orlando, Fla., this week attending a Pro Athlete Outreach seminar. Former Rock Hill Bearcats star and Tennessee Titans player Chris Hope is also there.
It's a broad program that starts early each morning and ends late at night. Watson said 158 NFL players and MLB players are there, and that the event is also for the players' wives. Participants attend sessions that range from managing finances, child rearing and the lifestyle tips for single players.
Each year, Watson's clinic, which is a branch of ROAR Sports, is conducted by local youth coaches and volunteers, and his pro football friends who sign on.
"It's the usual lineup," Watson said with a chuckle.
"We have local pro players like Chris (Hope), Sheldon (Brown) and J.J. (Jonathan Joseph). And we have pro players like Panthers Steve Smith, Thomas Davis and players from other NFL teams. Some of them will sign on for one of three clinics. Others will be here most of the day.
"We've also invited (South Carolina's) Stephon Gilmore, and we are hoping he can come.''
Clinics for campers in grades second-fifth are planned for 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. A clinic for players in grades sixth-eighth, the 'Middle School Combine,' is from 5-7 p.m. The cost is $5 which includes a T-shirt, bag and other small gifts.
For more information, visit www.roarsports.org.
As part of this year's clinic, Watson has another event: PRO (Pros Reaching Out) Night. It is scheduled for March 18 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. A panel of NFL players including Smith, Davis, Josh McCown, Tyler Brayton and Watson will answer preselected questions from the crowd on the topics of football family and faith.
There is no charge, but a $5 donation is encouraged. Proceeds go to camp scholarships for children and to support the Rock Hill Bible Fellowship Church Dental clinic, which gives free dental care to the Rock Hill community.
Watson's father, Rev. Ken Watson, moved his family to town before Ben's freshman year in high school. The family became a fixture in Rock Hill and Ben learned from his mom, Diane, and dad that one should remember where he or she came from and to give back to the community.
Watson calls Rock Hill his home and he spent much of his free time at the Rock Hill YMCA on Charlotte Avenue.
When he got to the pros as a member of the New England Patriots, he and his wife, Kirsten, founded One More, a charitable program "devoted to spreading the love and hope of Christ to One More soul by meeting real needs, promoting education and providing enrichment opportunities through charitable initiative and partnerships."
Watson and his wife have held many events to raise funds for deserving causes. The held an autograph session at the YMCA and gave all proceeds plus a private donation from the Watsons. They had a raffle that included transportation, room and tickets to the 2008 Super Bowl. They sold tickets for $2 each as part of a promotion to announce their foundation.
In Boston, the Watsons staged food drives to provide for the needy.