CR grad Harmon gives back to community: Patriots safety holds free youth football camp

Caesar Rodney graduate and New England Patriots player Duron Harmon was the center of attention Saturday, interacting with kids and posing for photographs with the young athletes at DE Turf. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

FREDERICA — If Duron Harmon wanted to attend a football camp as a child, he often had to leave the house at 3 or 4 a.m. and make the out-of-state drive with his father.

It typically wasn’t a free camp with NFL-experienced instructors, either.

That’s why it was an easy decision for the former Caesar Rodney High standout and current New England Patriots safety to put together a free camp for the kids in his home state of Delaware.

“They weren’t free. We had to travel to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland to go to camps and be seen,” said Harmon. “That was my father, he took me everywhere and he’s a big reason why I’m where I am today.

“He would work all night, get off at midnight and sometimes we would literally leave at 3 or 4 in the morning. We would get to the camps and they would start at around 7 or 8 – some camps were three or four hours away. He sacrificed his sleep and his time to take me wherever I needed to go.”

Kids attending Duron Harmon’s 2nd annual football camp at DE Turf practice pass patterns

Approximately 220 kids showed up Saturday morning for Harmon’s second annual football camp at DE Turf Sports Complex.

The one-day camp, free of charge for any kids in second grade through 12th grade, lasted from 9 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m. and included lunch and gift bags for all participants. The kids each donned camp T-shirts during drills, as well.

“It’s a hot day, so for parents to bring their kids out here on this Saturday morning, I think it just shows the support and the love this community gives me,” said Harmon. “I’m grateful to be able to hold my camp in Delaware and have this kind of support today.”

Harmon had a staff of nearly 60 coaches and volunteers, including a handful of current and former NFL players and college football stars instructing kids during drills.

Alex Ellis, Andre Patton, Jamil and Jamal Merrell, Ka’Lial Glaud, Keith Stroud, Gary Nova, Antwan Lowery, Brandon Bing, make up just a few of the recognizable names with college and professional experience.

The Kent County Stallions coaching staff also assisted with instructing some of the younger kids during the camp.

Football campers race across the field during a water break.

“I’m showing the kids that there are guys, who are from Delaware, who are playing on the biggest stage of football that you can play on,” said Harmon. “I think this just gives some of the kids the vision.”

Harmon, the 28-year-old from Magnolia, played his college football at Rutgers University following a successful high school career with the Riders.

He was selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Patriots and has helped the team win three Super Bowls over his six-year pro career.

“People don’t notice, but I see all the messages, the social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,” he said. “The support, it’s just crazy, and I get it from everywhere. So, this is just my thank you to the state of Delaware, my community, for how they’ve supported me throughout the years.”

Last year’s inaugural camp was held July 7 at Hodgson Vo-Tech High, but Harmon was excited to be able to expand it and move it to DE Turf in just the second year of the event.

New England Patriots football star Duron Harmon held his 2nd annual football camp at DE Turf Saturday free for fover 200 young athletes.

“The staff here at DE Turf, it’s been amazing how great they’ve been making sure everything runs smoothly,” he said. “They’ve been a big help and they were excited to hold the camp here. They told us we could use as many fields as we need, the day is ours.”

Ellis, the former Delmar High product and current NFL free agent, said it was a “no-brainer” when he was asked to help Harmon out at last year’s camp. He made sure to return for this year’s camp.

“It’s nice to give back and do something that you would have loved to have had as a kid,” said Ellis. “No matter where I’m at in the country, I’m coming back here to help out because you don’t get this kind of thing often.”

Ellis graduated from Delmar in 2011 before heading off to University of Tennessee to walk on with the football team. He made the team and eventually earned a scholarship from UT.

As an undrafted free agent in 2016, Ellis has seen time in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints and most recently the Kansas City Chiefs last season.

Football campers getting tips on blocking from volunteers that helped out Saturday.

Patton, a former St. Elizabeth High standout and Wilmington native, is currently a wide receiver for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Though there’s an emphasis on honing skills on the football field, Harmon says the camp is about much more than just the on-field instruction from experienced coaches and players.

“The biggest reason I have the camp here is because I want to show the athletes and the young guys that it’s possible. No matter what you do, it’s possible – don’t put any shorts on your goals,” he said.

“If you want to go to the NFL, sacrifice and do whatever you can to get there. Is it going to be hard? Yes, but you can do it. If you want to go to the NBA, the MLB, if you want to be a lawyer, a doctor, it’s not just about sports it’s about creating a mindset for people to realize if you want to do something, you can do it.”

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