MONCKS CORNER - If an election were held this week, Berkeley High grads and current NFL players Andre and Bruce Ellington might wind up in the office of their choice in Moncks Corner.
More than 600 kids showed up Friday morning at Berkeley High School to attend the first-ever Ellington Elite Football Camp, hosted by the school's now famous cousins. The Ellingtons had plenty of help from current and former NFL players such as Tajh Boyd, Brandon Ford, Omar Brown and Langston Moore. Several former Berkeley High players also joined in the skill development sessions.
The free camp included vendors of various health and fitness groups.
Former Clemson running back Andre Ellington, now with the Arizona Cardinals, had the idea for a camp last year but chose to wait for Bruce, a former receiver at South Carolina and third-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers.
Neither expected the massive turnout.
"This just shows how involved this community is with their kids, the same as when I was a kid here," said Bruce, who went to South Carolina on a basketball scholarship before switching to football after his first year in school. "Andre and I are both blessed to have grown up here, and it's great that we can come out and show our appreciation for what this community has done for us. Walking out on this field again today, it gave me chills."
Andre Ellington agreed.
"It's great to be back here, knowing the history that we had here as players," he said. "We had a lot of great times together on this field and it's exciting that we can share those memories with these kids. Both of us can honestly tell these kids what it's like to dream and to see your dreams come true."
Boyd, the former Clemson star quarterback and current New York Jet, admitted his shock and surprise when he walked on the field to see the large contingent of kids ranging in age from 4 to the early teens.
"It's a great thing that Bruce and Andre are doing here for their community," he said. "It's amazing the kids that are out here. As players who have achieved and have been fortunate to experience great things through football, it's our responsibility to give back and to mentor these kids. You can tell by the response how much this community loves Andre and Bruce. This town is very proud of them, and they should be. Andre and Bruce, they are real. Both are genuine guys."
The Ellingtons said they did not attend camps as youngsters, primarily because of a lack of opportunity. Both felt strongly about doing a free camp for the younger kids in their hometown.
"I am happy to do this because this is an opportunity for us to have an impact on these kids," Bruce said. "We're teaching some football, but we're trying to send a message to all of these kids. Get off the couch, exercise and chase your dreams."
Andre said his message to the younger generation is simple - keep your nose clean and work hard for whatever it is you dream of doing.
"Stay focused and stay out of trouble," he said. "Bruce and I were fortunate to have coach (Jerry) Brown here and he stressed to us the importance of staying focused and on being a leader on and off the field. We followed the directions of our coaches and our parents, and now we both are living our dream."
Brown, the former Berkeley coach now at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, made the trip down to share his knowledge and visit with his former players. The coach, who won three state titles at Berkeley, feels Bruce and Andre are perfect role models for the younger generation of players in the Moncks Corner community.
"These young people learn discipline, learn respect, learn commitment, and those are important things to learn these days. Bruce and Andre, they learned those things very early in life and they live it now," said Brown. "A lot of what makes kids successful in a community is their commitment level, their discipline and the respect they have for one another. The one thing about Bruce and Andre, they are not going to make negative headlines in the papers. They do things the right way."
In less than two weeks, both Ellingtons will be in full football mode as training camps begin across the country. Andre has the benefit of a having a year under his belt and expects a bigger role this season with the Cardinals.
Bruce will be experiencing the NFL life in training camp for the first time. His older cousin offered some advice.
"I just told him the NFL season, it's a lot different than college, and just learning to handle your idle time and the demands of a long season, it takes some adjusting," said Andre. "Just stay humble, stay focused, and work and learn every day. Bruce will be fine."
The Cardinals and 49ers meet on Sept. 21 and Dec. 28 during the 2014 NFL season. Safe to say all eyes from the family on Jelly Roll Road will be focused on watching their favorite sons on the biggest stage of all.
FILE - In this June 17, 2014, file photo, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington catches a pass during during NFL football minicamp in Santa Clara, Calif. Gone are the days when Bruce Ellington would rush from a basketball workout with South Carolina teammates to a football meeting room to learn the complex schemes of coach Steve Spurrier. Ellington’s only focus is the San Francisco 49ers and making an impact on the NFL. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)×