DRC Foundation Celebrity Slam Jam draws capacity crowd for charitable cause

Palmetto High filled for star-studded basketball game

adell@bradenton.comApril 7, 2013 

PALMETTO -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie wanted to a play basketball game where everyone won.

The standout NFL cornerback got his wish when the Palmetto High gym was packed for his DRC Foundation Celebrity Slam Jam Basketball game Saturday night.

Proceeds from the game go to the DRC Foundation and will be used to help underprivileged kids with scholarships, mentoring and numerous other things to improve their lives.

It was especially important for Rodgers-Cromartie. He played his senior year at Lakewood Ranch, and his father, Stan, was a local basketball phenom who starred at Southeast and Manatee Community College.

"I am thankful for the people who came to play in the game to make all this possible. It was a great turnout, and everybody had a good time. You couldn't ask for anything more," said Rodgers-Cromartie, a first-round NFL draft pick in 2008 who signed with the Denver Broncos last month.

More than a dozen NFL players joined in the festivities that began about 90 minutes before its scheduled 6:30 p.m. tip-off with an autograph session that was open to the public.

Among the local NFL stars in attendance were Palmetto High grad Mistral Raymond from the Minnesota Vikings, former Southeast/USF standout Mike Jenkins from the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packer cornerback Sam Shields, who played at Booker and the University of Miami.

"Dominique has been doing such a great job putting his stamp on the community, and when he asked me to be part of this without a doubt I had to be here, especially it being at my high school," Raymond said. "To see all these people come out for a good cause for the city feels great. I am here supporting all the guys. It's a great thing Dominique is doing.

"I had a situation where I got hurt at Minnesota, but I was able to come back and finish off the season and now I am just training. I am in the second year of my rookie contract and all of that other (money) stuff is not in my head. I am just trying to get better, play, have fun and help my teammates. I am just focusing on being the best player that I can be."

Jenkins is an unrestricted free agent, and Shields is a restricted free agent, which limits his options. They both decided not to play in the celebrity basketball game, but were there early to sign autographs.

"It feels good just to come back and see your family and friends. There are lot of people coming here to show their support and love, and it's for a good cause. Tonight I am just going to do the coaching thing," Jenkins said.

For Shields, the game was about coming out to give the kids a lot of love and show them that anything is possible.

Perhaps it is especially true for Shields, who was an All-American prep receiver for Booker and played the position for three years at Miami. He switched to defensive back his senior year and, despite going undrafted, turned himself into a starting cornerback for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

"I wanted to come here to show the kids they can do anything they want if they put their mind to it," Shields said. "Dominique called me to come, and I couldn't say no. Right now with Green Bay I am just waiting things out. If I sign with another team they can match it. I just want to play football. That's what I love, but you just got to be patient. I expect to be with Green Bay, but just waiting things out."

Among those participating in the game was receiver Anquan Boldin, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens last season and recently signed with the San Francisco 49ers.

The list of players included USF defensive back Jerome Murphy, now with the Washington Redskins, and UCF standout running back Kevin Smith, who is with the Detroit Lions.

Making the longest trip was Seattle Seahawks receiver Stephen Williams, who played with Rodgers-Cromartie when they were with the Arizona Cardinals.

"I played with DRC my rookie year. He showed me the ropes and has always remained a good friend. It's always great to help your former teammates, especially when they are giving back to the community like Dominique. This is for a great cause, and you want to be part of it," Williams said.

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