Former teammates Andre Fluellen and Ronnie Brown reunite for free camp
Written by Chike Nwakamma - The Daily Tribune News   

Almost 13 years removed from a state championship season, two former Cartersville High football players teamed up once again, returning Saturday to their field of dreams -- Weinman Stadium -- for the Andre Fluellen-Ronnie Brown Football Camp, which was sponsored by USA Football and Fluellen's business, Dynasty Sports & Entertainment.

Brown, a San Diego Chargers running back, had been back to the Purple Hurricanes' home football field a handful of times since graduating in 2000 but doesn't get to return often -- though he relishes those moments he does.

"I had my jersey retired one year and then I came to a football game, but I try to come back as much as I can," said Brown, who left to play for Auburn University after leaving Cartersville. "It's hard ... to catch me during football season, but [I come back] as much as I can because it all really started here so it's always good to come back home."

"It was tough [not being able to come back last year]," added Brown, who eventually signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last summer after the NFL lockout ended. "It was tough ... just having to deal with the lockout and free agency and all that stuff, but Andre did a good job and it was good and he has everything in order, and each year he does something a little bit more. And just for him to take that initiative, it says a lot about the character of him and his family, the Fluellens, and the things they do around Cartersville and the way that they try to give back and be involved in the community."

After drawing approximately 100 children, from ages 7-18, for the inaugural camp, the second edition of the camp added 50 more to its total this year on a sweltering day the exact opposite from the gloomy, light rain-filled day from a year ago.

"I think it went really well," Fluellen said when asked about the free football camp. "The main thing we did, we beat the heat. I didn't want any kids to go out there and get sick or anything like that, or get hurt. I'm just glad that nobody got overheated too much. We were able to kind of slow down the pace, but [still] keep it fun and actually keep it hard work, too."

With Brown joining the fold for the first time, this year's camp had a slight Auburn feel to it -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jason Campbell, free agent running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers were present at the camp Saturday.

Other NFL players included Everette Brown, a former teammate of Fluellen's at Florida State University and a current teammate of his with the Detroit Lions; Channing Crowder, a one-time Miami Dolphin teammate of Ronnie Brown's who is attempting a comeback following a brief, two-year retirement; Sammie Hill, a teammate of Fluellen's with the Lions; and DeMario Pressley, a defensive tackle with the Bears. Hill, Pressley and Everette Brown returned for the second year.

"It's big just having Ronnie, especially with all his Auburn guys that came and his Miami guys," said Fluellen, a defensive tackle. "[We were] able just to spread the wealth out a little bit, between me and him ... pulled as many guys as we can here. It's kind of a like 'you scratch our back and we'll scratch yours.' We always do camps for them, so they always do camps for us ... That's kind of how it works around the NFL."

Williams, a member of the 2004 undefeated Auburn team, felt blessed to have the opportunity to contribute to the camp.

" ... It's always a blessing for myself and, I feel like, a blessing whenever we can come out and give back to the kids because we [were] once in their position, looking up to [NFL] guys like myself, Ronnie and the other players here," he said. "[It's] just always good to come back and ... give 'em a little feedback information. You just never know how far it goes in life with this. These kids [are] gonna remember this for the rest of their life, man."

Ronnie Brown -- who flexed a nice left-handed touch at quarterback, second only to Campbell's ball in the camp -- echoed his former teammate's sentiments about helping create memories.

"This experience is something they can take with 'em the rest of their lives. When I was a kid, I was able to go out and play with some NFL players and just hang out," Brown said. "It's cool. We come out and little kids [are] like, 'I can guard you,' or 'I can tackle you,' and they want you to throw the ball with 'em. It's just a good time. I think they enjoy it, but we enjoy it as well, just being able to spend a little bit of your time and give back and it means so much.

"I mean, it doesn't take a lot to give a little bit of time," he continued. " ... Just giving gifts and stuff, that's just so materialistic, but when you actually go out and can relate and have fun and enjoy it, that means a lot."

"I'm excited that he's doing this," said Campbell, a Laurel, Miss., native and Brown's roommate in college. "He was very excited to do it. It's something we both talked about, doing camps in our hometowns to give kids the opportunity to come out and see us in person, not just on TV."

"The kids look up to us as role models ... especially Ronnie being from here, in his hometown and everything," he added. "Both of the guys are from this area so for them to give back to their school and back to their community, it goes a long ways. Kids can touch 'em and not just see 'em on TV but actually ... be able to relate to 'em."

Aside from simply spending time with the children -- which included an extended photo-and-autograph session after the three-hour camp -- the pro players had some advice to go along with the instruction they offered during camp.

"First of all, [I] tell 'em hard work and dedication is where it starts. You can have all the talent in the world and if you're lazy and not willing to work, you're not gonna get [anywhere]," Williams said. "Then, you have to be coachable as an athlete if you want to pursue that and just be comfortable within yourself. If you give it your all, that's all you can ask for."

Listening, Campbell said, is "half the battle" when it comes to being successful in life or in football.

"If you listen, you can always get the next step because it's about getting a sense of direction. If you can't listen to directions, then you can't go anywhere in life. That's not just on the football field," Campbell acknowledged. "Those are things we just try to teach kids besides just football all the time, listening skills and being disciplined and definitely [staying focused on] the education part."

With the day nearly done after close to six hours -- day-of registration started at 7:30 a.m. -- Fluellen touched on the importance of he and Brown's return trip to their alma mater.

"This is big because it's not too many of us [coming] out of Cartersville that's made it to the pros. So, it's just a chance that two guys that did make it have been successful and kept our noses clean," he said. "We're able to set a good example for the kids."

Read more: The Daily Tribune News - Fmr teammates reunite for free camp