Duke Johnson hasn’t even gone through his first preseason training camp as an NFL player, but he’s already using his professional career to contribute to the community.
The Miami Hurricanes’ all-time leading rusher, through his recently established Duke Johnson Foundation, held a charity bowling event at Strike 10 Bowling and Sports Lounge at Gulfstream Park on Tuesday.
Fans got a chance to take pictures, get autographs and bowl with Johnson. All the proceeds will be donated to his foundation and his mother Cassandra Mitchell’s Young Women Facing Their Future charity.
Inspired by his own upbringing growing up in Miami Gardens, Johnson started his foundation as a means to give back to South Florida communities. He also wanted to give local youth a role model to look up to.
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“Just helping out kids in South Florida reach their goals, their aspirations — whatever they may be — and just provide encouragement for them and help them realize anything is possible,” said Johnson, who was drafted in the third round by the Cleveland Browns after his junior season with UM. “I don’t think a lot of these kids have somebody they can just reach out and talk to and I want to be that person.”
Former UM teammate Jon Feliciano attended the event. Also present was former hip-hop artist and current Miami Norland defensive coordinator Luther Campbell, as well as Billy Corben, director of ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries The U and The U Part 2.
The event raised funds that will be going toward a school supply drive in August through entry fees, a “per-pin” tournament where participants designate an amount they’ll donate for each pin they knock down, and an auction for a variety Duke Johnson memorabilia.
Among the items available was Johnson’s autographed Browns No. 29 jersey, which went for $1,500 to a fan named Athens Andrews.
“Every time I walk by him I hug him,” says Mitchell, who has taken the primary role in running the Duke Johnson Foundation. “I’m overwhelmed. It’s beautiful.”
Other items included an autographed Browns mini-helmet, a pair of Johnson’s Sage rookie cards, a Topps rookie card set of three and a gift card to Miami Hurricanes merchandise and apparel store All Canes.
Johnson and Mitchell hope they can expand on Tuesday’s event and even begin to host charity events in Cleveland as well.