DRC Foundation Celebrity Slam Jam | Warrick passed torch to DRC, who is keeping dreams of kids alive

adell@bradenton.comApril 5, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie cleanly buried a 3-pointer from deep in the corner. A few seconds later, Peter Warrick stripped the ball from an opponent, turned and threw a pass downcourt that was converted into a layup.

For a few seconds, it looked like vintage Warrick, the young man most responsible for Manatee County's only boys state basketball championship.

Rodgers-Cromartie and Warrick might have been the two most valuable players in the DRC Foundation's Fifth Annual Celebrity Slam Jam basketball game Friday night at Southeast High.

But it wasn't for their basketball prowess.

The two were in different ways responsible for putting on a game that brings money into the community to help the less fortunate by drawing an estimated 1,700 fans.

Warrick planted the seed for the game, and Rodgers-Cromartie ran with it.

Rodgers-Cromartie, the New York Giants cornerback who hails from Lakewood Ranch, won't let anyone forget the kids who share the same roots that enabled him to be a professional athlete.

Warrick started his charity hoops game when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals. Rodgers-Cromartie was a kid

then and came to watch, but made a promise to himself if he ever was in a position to do the same he would.

"This means a lot to me. Coming from here and being able to put on something like this is a blessing. I look forward to doing it every year," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I was there when Peter Warrick did his. That's where I definitely got the idea and why I try to keep him involved. I personally invited him. He paved the way."

The cornerback, who turns 28 Monday, was a first-round draft pick in 2008 by the Arizona Cardinals and recently signed a $15 million guaranteed contract with the Giants.

Now 36, Warrick showed flashes of the point guard who led Southeast to a state basketball title his senior year after winning a state football championship.

"This is what I did, but now it's other people's time to shine, and I just appreciate him for inviting me and putting me in the game," Warrick said. "It's all about giving back to your community. I am looking forward to watching him play with the Giants. When I was playing, people were trying to build teams. Now they are trying to win right away. He will do well."

Rodgers-Cromartie, Warrick and former Manatee High receiver Ace Sanders, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, played on the same team Friday night. They showed a little hometown connection, but had a tough time holding down San Francisco 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin, who showed some of the talent that made him a highly touted basketball player.

"Ace Sanders is my guy. He got what I got. The first thing I told him when I saw him, 'Man, if you would've gone to New England you would've made it to the hall of fame.' I enjoy watching him play. He reminds me of me," Warrick said.

Warrick played in a time when defensive backs had a lot more leeway in hindering receivers.

"It's more of a passing league now. They want touchdowns, and you can't touch a receiver after five yards; that is the biggest difference," Warrick said. "When I played, they could touch you from here all the way down. Times have changed. Would I have had bigger numbers now? If I was on another team, I think I would've."

The 22-year-old Sanders just finished his rookie season and is looking forward to the franchise moving forward. For him, this night was for the kids.

"It means a lot to be here. It feels good to come back home and do something positive for the kids," Sanders said. "I went to Peter Warrick's (charity) games. He was one of the first ones to start it, and we are just happy to keep it going. Everybody around here was inspired by Peter Warrick, and Dominique is continuing it."

Sanders played at South Carolina, the same school as defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney, who some are predicting to be the first pick in the NFL draft and others are calling a potential bust. Sanders, who practiced daily with Clowney for two years, has a message.

"I think he should be the number one pick. He is a different breed. He is a different type of athlete, so fast and so strong," Sanders said.

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