POMPANO BEACH — Highlands Christian Academy Athletic Director Jim Good didn't know what to expect when a beefy former NFL linebacker showed up at his office with a proposal in late spring.
The visitor, Tyrus McCloud, had brought a list with him of things he'd need, some of which he'd ask for if Good showed even a little interest.
"They offered everything before I even got a chance to say it," McCloud said. "It was awesome, amazing that they totally embraced [it]."
Said Good: "As soon as he sat down and really explained what his organization is all about and its purpose, we jumped on board. We opened up our arms and said, 'We'd love to have you use our facilities.' "
What materialized from the meeting was a three-day mini football and cheerleading/dance camp June 25-27 on Highlands Christian's campus for kids ages 7 to 15 with parents or relatives in prison, as well as some at-risk youth.
The camp was the creation of Prison Fellowship Ministries, a non-profit organization that aims to restore broken bonds between prisoners and their families while protecting their children from following in their footsteps.
McCloud, a football star at Nova High and Louisville who played two NFL seasons (1997-98) with the Baltimore Ravens and briefly was with the Miami Dolphins in 2001, has been involved with Prison Fellowship through his church in Pompano Beach the past 12 years, and for the last year has been the organization's South Florida field director.
"I jumped on the vision to be able to help the youth," the 37-year-old said. "We're mixing football with the message that all your faith and trust should be in God and that He's going to allow you to be all you can be in life."
Said McCloud's high school coach Willie Dodaro: "His heart is the size of his body."
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound McCloud, who grew up with six siblings and a single mother in the impoverished Collier City and NW 27th Avenue section of Pompano Beach, can relate to the campers. His older brother, Barrett Moore, was imprisoned for five years while McCloud was a teenager and his younger brother, Norman Singletary, has been in and out of prison since 2000, McCloud said.
"The thing that hurts me the most is when I go back to my old community and see my friends walking around with their pants hanging down, selling drugs, and they look at me and say, 'You think you're better than us.' It's not so," McCloud said. "It's just that I decided to work hard. So that's all I'm trying to instill in these kids. One, two or three days can be a big difference in a kid's life."
Prison Fellowship held a camp at Calvary Christian Academy last year and Westminster Academy in 2010.
Eighty-five boys attended the football camp, McCloud said, and 40 girls attended the cheerleading/dance camp, for which a few Miami Dolphins cheerleaders volunteered their time.
Over on the football field, where speed and agility drills were woven in along with faith-based devotional speeches, and motivational speeches — two-time Super Bowl champion defensive back and Blanche Ely grad Tyrone Carter addressed campers on the morning of June 26 — McCloud had the assistance of Highlands Christian coach Nathan Revell and a handful of Revell's players.
Among those who helped out: senior linebacker Rylee Hage, senior receiver Johnny Fitch, offensive lineman Dakoda Brisco and senior running back Arelious Burns.
"It's just a bunch of people giving up their time, being selfless and saying, 'You know what? We want to pour it into this generation, kids who maybe haven't been given the best bet,' " said Revell, entering his first season as Highlands' coach. "And now that we've shown we have an interest with them, now we have a chance to engage with them."
Said McCloud: "I'm just hoping out of the 85 guys we've got signed up that three can grab the vision and pass it on."
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