PALMETTO -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knows what it's like to struggle.
A football hopeful, he attended four high schools and never got a chance to start until his senior year at Lakewood Ranch.
He was born with a non-functioning kidney that was removed when he was 5. Doctors told him to forget about playing contact sports. He forgot what they said, but the road was long.
Rodgers-Cromartie was unwanted after graduation from Lakewood Ranch and received a scholarship to Tennessee State because an assistant coach there owed his father, Stan, a favor. It was his only offer.
Four years later, he was a first-round NFL draft pick and a Pro Bowler in his second NFL season. Last month, the cornerback signed a $5 million contract with the Denver Broncos.
The obstacles were always there. Rodgers-Cromartie had to sign a waiver to play for Arizona, which selected him 16th overall in the draft because of his kidney. He had to do the same thing at Tennessee State before the school would let him on the field.
It's why Rodgers-Cromartie is so passionate about returning to his roots for his DRC Foundation Celebrity Weekend on Friday and Saturday.
"It's always special when you get a chance to come back home and see all the kids and try to help them," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "Growing up, I went to a celebrity basketball game that Peter Warrick had, and I told myself if I ever had a chance to do something like that I would. These kids look up to me like I looked up to Peter. You want to be a good role model and do everything you can for them."
The proceeds from the DRC Foundation goes to programs that will benefit underprivileged children from low socioeconomic families to help them overcome challenges and achieve their dreams as Rodgers-Cromartie did.
The 26-year-old has never forgotten the community that paved the way for him.
The 6-foot-3 Rodgers-Cromartie was blessed with good size and incredible speed and had a set of parents who instilled confidence. His father was a standout basketball player at Southeast and never allowed his son's struggles to stop him. His mother Melissa Rodgers has been a rock. This weekend they will say thanks to their community.
Stan's older brother, Charlie, was a youth football legend for the Sarasota Ringling Redskins when he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1973, prior to his sophomore year at Sarasota High.
"Dominique reminds me of Charlie in so many ways. They were the same size, had the same type of frame and all that speed. It's like a re-creation," Stan Cromartie said. "It's part of the reason the DRC Foundation means so much to me and my family. This is where I grew up and it's all about giving back to your community."
Stan was a basketball legend himself at Southeast and then at Manatee Community College and Weber International. Now assistant athletic director at Edward Waters College, he ran a free basketball camp in Manatee County for 20 years. He turned it over to the DRC Foundation five years ago when Dominique was drafted.
"I am excited to bring my Celebrity Charity Weekend back to my hometown, and I am grateful that so many of my friends across the league are coming to help me raise money for the programs the foundation provides," Rodgers-Cromartie said.
Rodgers-Cromartie has gathered an impressive list of NFL figures who have agreed to participant in his Celebrity Basketball game that will tip off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Palmetto High. A players autograph session open to the public will be held prior to the game beginning at 5 p.m. at the school.
NFL players who have committed to play in the game include Anquan Boldin, a key member of last season's Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens; Green Bay defensive back Sam Shields, who played for Booker High; Tampa Bay Bucs safety Mark Barron; Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson from the Philadelphia Eagles; Antrel Rolle; Jared Cook; Michael Adams; and Greg Toler. Mike Jenkins, who played the past five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and starred at Southeast High and the University of South Florida, is expected to attend, but will not play because of his free-agent status.
There is hope that former local NFL players Warrick from Southeast/FSU and Fabian Washington from Bayshore/Nebraska will participate.
Since entering the NFL five years ago, Rodgers-Cromartie has built quite a reputation for his attire. The public will get to see what the excitement is about at his fashion show.
Festivities begin Friday with DRC's Walking with a Purpose Celebrity Fashion Show at the Renaissance on 9th at 1816 Ninth Street West starting with a Red Carpet at 6 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m.
"I like to wear loud colors. Pink and blue are my favorite, and I will have something special for everyone who comes to the fashion show to see," Rodgers-Cromartie said.
Tickets for the Fashion Show are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. The basketball game will cost $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Tickets can be purchased at the Palmetto High School Box Office, Kutz & Kurls in Palmetto, DESOTO Boys & Girls Clubs in Bradenton, Boyz 2 Men Barber Shop in Tampa, R.sole at University Mall in Tampa and are available online at www.DRCFoundation.org.