MONCKS CORNER – A week of rain made for sloppy field conditions but failed to dampen the spirits of about 1,000 kids Friday at the Ellington Elite football camp held at Berkeley High School.
For the fourth consecutive year, former Berkeley High stars and current NFL players Bruce and Andre Ellington hosted the free camp, which included a health fair for participants and their parents.
The community event has become the most popular happening in Moncks Corner, something the football playing cousins had hoped for when they held their first camp four years ago.
“It’s so satisfying to be able to come back and host this camp and to see the response that we get from our community,” said Andre Ellington, a former Clemson star now with the Arizona Cardinals. “I get excited about this as soon as we start the planning stages. It’s great to be able to do this with Bruce, and to have so many sponsors that allow us to make it a free camp.”
Andre was an all-state running back at Berkeley before moving on to Clemson, while Bruce was an all-state quarterback and point guard who played both football and basketball at the University of South Carolina.
“This is our chance to give back to the community that did so much for us when we were kids,” Bruce said. “Berkeley football is special to both of us, and our families and friends in Moncks Corner are special as well. It’s exciting to see this continue to grow and certainly we could not make this all happen without a lot of support from a lot of people.”
As pro players, the Ellingtons have been able to draw in other NFL and college talent to assist with the camp. Among those helping Friday were former Clemson defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins and former Hanahan High and Clemson receiver Brandon Ford. Berkeley coaches and current players also assisted with instruction.
The camp also is an opportunity for the Ellingtons to visit family while in town before both head off to their respective training camps. For the entire three hours of the event, both players signed autographs and took pictures with Berkeley fans of all ages.
With training camps starting in mid-July, both players have plenty on their minds as they prepare for the 2017 season. Andre enters his fifth season with the Cardinals in a battle for a spot on the roster.
He worked out at receiver this spring but will compete for the backup running back slot behind starter David Johnson. He has rushed for 1,697 yards in 53 career games but has fought injuries in recent years.
“I’m as healthy right now as I have ever been and I am so excited to go to camp and compete,” Andre said. “The injuries have been frustrating but hopefully that’s in the past. I look forward to camp. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to compete and earn a spot.”
Bruce is entering the final season of his first contract, a four-year rookie deal signed in 2014. He has 19 career receptions but missed all of last season with a hamstring injury. Bruce had surgery to remove a tendon in his hamstring and has successfully rehabilitated back to full strength.
Bruce, who will be 26 in August, realizes this season is a big one in terms of his future but is taking it in stride.
“I never feel pressure,” he said. “I feel great and I know I’m healthy. But I don’t feel pressure because I know God is in control. I love football and I would love to play 10 more years, but I can honestly say that if football ended now, I could walk away and be happy in life. I have been able to live my dream of playing in the NFL.
"I know how blessed I am. That’s the message we try to give to these kids. Dream big and work hard and good things will happen.”