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Big Man’s Camp a Success!

PLEASANTVILLE — You didn’t need to be a big man to go to the Big Mans Camp Saturday.

That was the name of a football camp for kids at Pleasantville High School. The camp took its name from the co-founder, Bryant McKinnie, who grew up in Woodbury, Gloucester County, and retired in 2014 after 13 years as a National Football League offensive lineman. He’s 6 feet 8 inches, which both helped immeasurably in that line of work and explains the name for his camp.

But when another big guy, Vernon Carey, had to bow out of this first-ever Big Mans Camp, McKinnie turned to an old Baltimore Ravens teammate. That was Ray Rice, the former running back who doesn’t look quite as big as the 5 feet 9 inches and 206 pounds he was listed at in a recent NFL media guide.

Rice honored his old blocker’s request and came to Pleasantville, where he offered some lessons in football and life to kids from grade school through high school.

“Anything they want, they can go out there and get,” said Rice, who starred at Rutgers before he made several all-star teams as a Raven. But his football career came to a sudden halt after he hit his then-fiancee, now wife in an elevator at the since-closed Revel Casino Hotel. Rice was suspended by the league after surveillance video of the incident went public. He was allowed to enter into a pretrial intervention program, or PTI, after he was indicted on a third-degree charge of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury.

Kids “know real, and they know everything I’ve been through,” he said later. So while he tried to inspire his young audience to follow their dreams, “They also have to be mindful that with one or two bad decisions, your dream can become a nightmare. And I’m still working and picking up the pieces, but I’m happy to be out there and be able to share that with the kids.”

Rice clearly was happy to be part of the camp, and he had fun clowning around with his old teammate, McKinnie, and with family members. On one play, Rice even lined up to play defense against his own mother, who was playing his old position, running back. And he jokingly tackled her, getting laughs from everybody who saw it.

Asked if he hopes to get back to the NFL, “That’s out of my control,” Rice said. “But one thing I can control is being in shape and being ready.”

McKinnie, who has a cousin in Pleasantville, didn’t get to do football camps when he was growing up. “Not only am I teaching these kids, I’m also teaching their coaches,” he said.
And down at the far end of the field, a group of very young players, all under age 9 or so, worked on a drill that ended with hitting a tackling dummy.

“Don’t ever put your head in,” said LaMar Parker, a coach with the Pleasantville Jokers, the town’s youth team. “You never tackle with your head. You could get a concussion.”
Another Jokers coach, Roshann Johnson, was impressed by the pros’ lessons, and how they dealt with the kids.

“They were excellent,” he said, saying they emphasized “being responsible, staying away from trouble and the streets. But Ray was like a little comedian too.”

View the event photo gallery>>

The program was set up by Pleasantville’s Recreation Department. Debbie Washington, the rec director, estimated that close to 100 kids showed up. The charge for the all-day camp was $50.

Source | July 9, 2016