Isn’t it great when “they don’t forget where they came from.”
Such was the case last Saturday (March 21) when a gorgeous, breezy, sunny day proved to be a perfect backdrop at the athletic field at Miami Springs Senior High School for the Fourth Annual Devin Aromashodu All-Star Football Camp. Even though he’s not part of an NFL roster anymore having been out of the league the last two years, former Miami Springs Golden Hawk Devin Aromashodu was back at it again, helping his alma mater and head football coach Darryel Bethune put on a terrific one-day football camp.
Thanks to the Genesis Media Group which helped organize the event, close to 100 kids ranging in age from 6 to 15 showed up and took advantage of some great football instruction from the Springs High School coaching staff and got a lot of interaction with some NFL players as well.
And while many players, including Miami Dolphins free safety and North Miami Beach High School graduate Louis Delmas came by to offer up some terrific instruction and advice for the kids, the headline-stealer of the day clearly was a very special ex-Hawk.
Seven years after he last stepped on to the Springs football practice field, T.Y. Hilton returned to his school for the first time. Arguably the greatest male athlete to ever come out of the school, Hilton graduated from Springs in 2008, went on to star at FIU collegiately and, in just three NFL seasons has not only “made it” but gone well beyond that.
Last January, after helping lead the Indianapolis Colts to wild card and divisional playoff victories before falling to New England in the AFC Championship game, Hilton caught a touchdown pass from fellow teammate Andrew Luck – in the Pro Bowl. Hilton arrived late in the morning and spent about 90 minutes getting reacquainted with former coaches including Bethune who was Hilton’s offensive coordinator his senior year in the 2007 season.
“This is the first time I’ve been back out here since I left,” said Hilton when asked if he had been back to the school since graduating. “This really brings back some great memories for sure. All the fun I had with all my home boys, my teammates, my coaches. It was a really special time for me. Anytime you’re doing stuff for the kids and coming back to your old stomping grounds, it means a lot.”
Once the kids realized who was there, all drills stopped as they flocked over to him to say “what’s up” and talk some football.
Twelve year-old Peter Zamora, who quarterbacks one of the Optimist teams at Miami Springs, did a lot more than that.
“Go out and I’ll hit you,” Zamora blurted out to a startled Hilton.
Hilton didn’t hesitate and off he went.
Cool as silk, Zamora dropped a perfect ball downfield, hitting Hilton in stride.
“It was really cool,” Zamora said. “I really wasn’t nervous because I saw he was jogging and knew he would be easy to throw to.”
“I’m so appreciative for T.Y. coming out today,” Aromashodu said. “With all the success he’s had, he has a really busy schedule so for him to take the time to do this means a lot not only to me but everyone involved in this event. I’m just so excited for the success he’s had. I never doubted he was going to do what he’s doing and the sky is the limit for him. He just went to his first Pro Bowl and I’m sure he’s going to go to many more.”
Hilton may have been Aromashodu’s headliner but he wasn’t the only current or former NFL player to spend the day at Springs High School.
Among the notable NFL players in attendance on this day besides Delmas were Chicago Bears defensive back Tim Jennings, two of Aromashodu’s former Minnesota Vikings teammates Fred Evans and Travis Taylor, along with San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Cook and former Houston Texan Rashad Butler.
“It’s so great to have him back again,” Bethune said. “For Devin to come out here even after being out of the league and still wanting to come back and do this tells you more about the individual than the athlete. A lot of effort and hard work goes into this, it’s a great camp with a lot of sponsors. And then on top of that, we get T.Y. out here. I can’t tell you how proud that makes me as a coach to see both of them not forgetting where they came from and remembering to always give back. They are both really special.”
With much of Bethune’s coaching staff along with him in charge, the morning hours were taken up with numerous instructional drills, from everything from the 40-yard dash to various agility drills.
Little by little, the professional players rolled in. For lunch, all the kids and coaches were fed plenty of food, thanks to Checkers, which was one of the co-sponsors along with Gatorade and Aquaurum Gold Water, which provided ice cold drinks. Afterward, there a highly spirited seven-on-seven competition where players and kids intermixed on different teams to compete against each other.
“I felt it was real important to come back here and do this again even though I’m not in the league anymore,” said Aromashodu who spent a total of seven NFL seasons playing for the Colts, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings and has gone back to his college alma mater, Auburn to finish up getting his degree in Business Administration and will graduate in May. “Like I’ve said every year, not many people do it and I always said that if I got the chance to do this that I would continue to do it. I just feel happy and blessed to have had the career I had and want to continue giving back. I just appreciate everyone that has helped build this into a success including all the players that came out today.”
“What a great day for these kids and the Springs football program,” said Bethune. “I want to thank the administration at the school for their help and cooperation in letting us hold this came here today.”