By Chelsa Messinger
Edgerrin James is a 4-time Pro Bowler and the All-Time Leading Rusher for the Indianapolis Colts.
But when he comes back home, he still feels like the 17-year-old who once roamed the halls of Immokallee high.
"Oh yeah, I feel like one of the normal kids," said James, "because everybody around here you know, and you grew up with."
Now, James has come full circle. He says when he was young, he didn't have any local football camp to go to, so he created one. On Monday morning, James welcomed over 500 kids to his 5th Annual Edgerrin James Foundation Youth Football Camp in Ave Maria.
"It's one thing that I've always wanted to bring here and I always wanted to be a part of," said James. "Growing up in this area, there weren't that many people playing ball and really into doing the camps."
According to James, the future is bright for Southwest Florida Football. Carlos Hyde, a former Naples runningback, is entering his first NFL training camp as a 2nd round draft pick for the San Francisco 49ers.
"He's just got to go out there and make sure he stays healthy, that's the biggest thing," said James. "He's actually playing on the same team as one of my great friends, Frank Gore, and has a chance to be mentored by him. That's one thing that very few get a chance to do."
Edgerrin James knows a thing or two about coming in hot. In his first season with the Colts, James was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Another Southwest Florida native, Sammy Watkins, Jr., has a good chance to win that award this year.
"I thought he should've gotten the first pick of the draft, because he was hands down the best player in the draft," said James.
"I think he's going to be a great NFL player. I just hope that everything that doesn't have to do with football doesn't set him back."
James goes on to say that raw talent might get you to the NFL, but staying there, requires smart choices, both on and off the field. Which is why introducing kids to strong role models, at camps like his own, is so important.