High School Football

Rock Hill NFL star takes ‘young ballers’ on shopping spree ahead of football camp

Rock Hill NFL star holds shopping spree for kids ahead of football camp

Mason Rudolph, a former Northwestern High School quarterback who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, took nine children on a shopping spree Friday at Academy Sports ahead of his youth football camp.
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Mason Rudolph, a former Northwestern High School quarterback who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, took nine children on a shopping spree Friday at Academy Sports ahead of his youth football camp.

The boys weren’t even at the store’s checkout before they were pleading with Mason Rudolph to sign their footballs, still snug in the cardboard cases.

He chuckled nervously next to a store clerk and asked if he should at least buy the balls first before signing them.

He didn’t.

The boys left the rest of the $100 shopping sprees to their mothers and Rudolph and shuffled over to an open space in the the baseball aisle to throw around their footballs.

Rudolph, a 23-year-old quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and former Northwestern High School star, took nine children on a shopping spree at Academy Sports in Rock Hill ahead of a youth football camp he is holding at Manchester Meadows Saturday.

The nine kids looked up to him as he signed their footballs and helped them pick out mouth pieces.

“Going to college so far away, I hadn’t really done this type of stuff in my hometown,” Rudolph said.

Rudolph said he was doing the shopping spree because he looks up to an older generation of Rock Hill football greats that have held camps and shopping sprees for kids.

“The respect we all have, my generation for the older generation, is tremendous,” he said.

He looks up to stars like Benjamin Watson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Stephon Gilmore — all former Rock Hill players who went on to play in the NFL, he said.

“They’ve all done a good job of staying connected to the community long after their college career is over, and I want to do the same thing,” he said. “This was the first chance to do it.”

Rudolph was a star quarterback for Northwestern for three years, before another four successful years in college at Oklahoma State. He led Northwestern to a 15-0 state title season in 2013, and left Oklahoma State as a key member of the most successful senior class in the school’s history.

Rudolph was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, spending all of last season as an inactive member of the squad.


Eleven-year-old Ashton Foster is attending Rudolph’s camp and found out about the shopping spree through the Upper Palmetto YMCA.


“I love football and he can probably teach me how to play,” Foster said.


Nedra Hart, mother of 8-year-old R.J. Hart, said her son was excited to get his new gloves, socks, mouthpiece and cleats.


“I think it’s cool because he got me all of this stuff,” R.J. Hart said.


Rudolph said he wants to “continue the pipeline of players coming out of Rock Hill” that stay active in their hometown.


“I’m sure we’ll see a lot of these guys having their names called one day in a few years in the 2026-27 draft,” he said.


Rudolph’s message to “young ballers” is to show up to the locker room on time, turn in homework and do the right thing, he said.


“Put effort into whatever you’re doing and it will go a long way for you in the end,” Rudolph said.


Rudolph is holding the youth football camp Saturday at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, from 1-5 p.m.


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Tracy Kimball is a visual journalist for The Herald, covering York, Chester and Lancaster counties. She has worked at The Herald for 11 years. She graduated from Winthrop University and has lived in Rock Hill for 20 years.
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