Hundreds of kids flooded the football field at the Manatee Police Athletic League to get personalized instruction from NFL players.
And before he played at the University of Florida and in the NFL, Brian Poole was like many of the kids in attendance Friday night.
“I remember going to guys’ (camps) like Tyrone Williams, Peter Warrick ... Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Mike Jenkins, Fabian Washington,” Poole said. “Just all those type of guys really inspired me to want to have a camp when I made it to the NFL myself.”
Poole was back on a youth football field as part of his nonprofit foundation’s third annual free football camp.
Several NFL players including former UF stars Marcus Maye (Jets), Vernon Hargreaves (Bucs) and Keanu Neal (Falcons) were there helping the next wave of future football talent.
The main event, though, was Poole, who grew up locally just like the kids that attended Friday’s camp.
Poole starred at Southeast High, where he wore No. 24 like his father, Brian Poole Sr., did before him at the East Bradenton school. His skill as a shutdown cornerback led to an invite to the Under-Armour All-American game and fulfilling his dream to play in Gainesville for the Gators.
“I always told myself when I got an opportunity that I would give back to my community,” Poole said. “So that’s what I’m doing.”
Poole’s father, Brian Poole Sr., said he’s really proud of his son and was also surprised at how everything turned out.
Poole’s love affair with football has been a constant. His father recalled how his son wore a Miami Dolphins uniform with the pads to bed until he couldn’t wear it anymore. That kept going as he was constantly around the Southeast High football program toting the helmet bag when his uncles played for the Seminoles.
When Tyrone Williams, who starred at Nebraska and won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers, held a camp, Poole ended up with cleats from former Packers star Leroy Butler that he still has to this day.
“Guys in the league have really busy schedules,” Poole said. “So for them to put a little time aside to come spend time with some kids in their community, I feel like that’s everything. I know when I was a kid, that was an everlasting impression on me. So I can only imagine what I’m doing for kids.”
Poole Sr. said his son surpasses every hurdle. For example, he fulfilled his goal to not only go to UF, but to play regularly there. Then after college, Poole went undrafted. He wasn’t content with just signing as an undrafted free agent or being a reserve. Instead, he became a regular fixture on the Atlanta Falcons’ defense en route to a Super Bowl appearance in his rookie season.
And after a couple seasons in Atlanta, Poole signed this offseason to play for the New York Jets. Famed sports agent Drew Rosenhaus was in attendance Friday and spoke about how Poole performed and got to where he is to the youth players inside the PAL gym prior to the camp kicking off on the football field.
“Even when people told him he couldn’t do it ... he could do it,” Poole Sr. said.