Chris Hope is a pro football player, a Tennessee Titans safety who youngsters idolize.
Hope, who starred at Rock Hill High and at Florida State, wants folks in York County to know that he hasn't changed because of money or success. He's the same easy-going Chris he always was and has a strong appreciation for those who supported him growing up.
Hope never missed a day of school in all those years. And except for one "B'' that Hope said he deserved, he was a straight "A'' student. He is just as proud of his academic accomplishments as he is of his performances on the football field. Like the kids who look up to him, Hope had his heroes growing up. Because he wanted to be like them and saw what they accomplished, Hope said he worked hard and realized the future was in his hands.
Hope doesn't take his role as a hero lightly. He has a message for the kids in this community, which he will deliver on May 22 at Rock Hill High School. Hope has started a non-profit organization that will support good causes and get his message -- you can do what he has done if you work hard and stay committed -- across to the youngsters in Rock Hill and the surrounding area.
He will deliver that message, followed by the first Chris Hope Celebrity Basketball Game.
"While looking for an idea, I thought about the athletes that were special to me when I was growing up,'' Hope said. "I decided to start a basketball game and bring in as many pro and college athletes who would come.
"This is going to be an annual event, and each year we will find a good cause that will get the proceeds. We are in business to help people, not make money. Our first game is for Phyllis Adams, a teacher everyone loves. She was paralyzed in a car accident and we will donate what we make to her medical care.''
Adams, a teacher at York Road Elementary School in Rock Hill, was injured in October while driving to school.
Hope named his organization, which has a logo. It is I (represented by an eyeball) C. Hope. He plans to expand the event to an entire weekend instead of a Saturday night, like this year's. Future plans are to have a free football clinic for the area's young players on Friday, the basketball game on Saturday, and a car-show and community picnic on Sunday. Hope will foot the bill.
The basketball game will include former and current college and pro football players, mixed in with athletes from other sports. Hope wants to show youngsters there are more opportunities out there besides football.
But football will be central. Hope has confirmations from several current Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers players. They will not compete in the basketball game. But they are coming to support Hope's new project. He will ask several to come back and help with his football clinic next year.
Hope is close to completing the rosters. Jeff Burris will coach the team that includes former Northwestern players. Gerald Dixon, who played at Rock Hill High, USC and for 13 seasons in the NFL, will coach the former Bearcats players.
Each roster will be sprinkled with players from other schools with college or pro backgrounds, including Lewisville's Sheldon Brown and Clover's Lamont Hall. Hope is also attempting to contact Lewisville's William Strong and Brian Williams, Chester's William Gallman and Allison Feaster, Indian Land's Shawn Crawford and Rock Hill's Kendra Mackey.
Among the former Bearcats already on board are Ko Simpson, Lamont Boozer, Louis Moore and Eric Mann.
The former Trojans are Ben Watson, Johnathon Joseph, Dee Feaster and Derrick Ross.
And from those groups are three players Hope looked up to when he was a youngster.
Hope said he got chills when Moore came out of the stands at a Celriver Classic Basketball tournament to compete in the slam dunk competition. Hope said Moore was wearing jeans and sneakers, but still won the event.
Burris, a former Northwestern, Notre Dame and NFL player, was another.
Hope said when he was in the stands at Northwestern football games, he couldn't take his eyes off Burris. He wanted to wear an orange neck collar just like the one Burris wore.
Hope looked up to former Northwestern and Florida State running back Dee Feaster. Hope was thrilled when Feaster scored three touchdowns in a span of five minutes in a Herald Football Jamboree. After each, Hope said, Feaster did his version of the "Lambeau Leap'' that sent electricity through the stands.
Everyone is invited to come and help the organization grow.
Tickets for the basketball game will be on sale in the coming weeks at businesses around Rock Hill.
The will cost $5 in advance and $8 at the door. Hope has not nailed down a time, but said he's looking at 6 or 6:30 p.m.
PLAYERS: Any players listed above who have not contacted can send an email to the email address below with a phone number and they will be passed on to Hope.
He needs to know ASAP to order uniforms.