Danny Verdun Wheeler came home last weekend to fulfill a promise he made a long time ago. His promise was to give back to the community where he grew up - Thomson. The promise became a reality last Saturday at Sweetwater Park near Thomson, where 160 pre-teens and teenagers participated in the Second Annual Danny Verdun-Wheeler Football Camp.
"I had a great time and I think everybody who attended had a great time," said Verdun Wheeler. "That's why this camp was created was for the kids to learn a few basic things about football and to have a little fun."
A number of the youngsters walked away with special autographed t-shirts, caps and other items that were signed by a host of celebrities - many of them current or former football players at the University of Georgia - like Verdun Wheeler.
"I'm glad that a lot of area kids got a chance to meet some of my friends, so that they could see if they could make it, they too, have a chance of making it someday with a lot of hard work and determination," said Wheeler. "We're doing this for the kids."
Wheeler's brother, Chris Tutt, of Thomson, served as director of the camp and said he was pleased with the number of participants, noting that he believed there would have been a larger turnout had the weather not been a factor. From morning through the afternoon, there were rain showers.
Those attending the five-hour camp got a chance to meet such celebrities as Marty Milner with the Atlanta Falcons, Delago Dixon of Fort Valley State University and a host of current or former University of Georgia football players including Knowshon Moreno, Antavious Coates, C.J. Byrd and Fernado Velasco.
"It was good to be around so many young boys who love and want to play football just like I do," Moreno told The McDuffie Mirror.
As for the upcoming football season, the 20-year-old Moreno, who was just named to Playboy magazine's preseason All-American team, feels that the Georgia Bulldogs "will have their work cut out for them."
Moreno, who rushed for 1,334 yards and scored 14 touchdowns last season, said the competition in the Southeastern Conference is expected to be even greater this season than last year.
"Our season is going to come down to a couple of big things: how well we play together as a team and how far we want to see ourselves go in terms of team goals," said Moreno, who grew up in Middletown, NJ. "It's all going to be up to us as a team."
The camp drew to a close with a Saturday night celebrity basketball game played at Thomson High School. The game ended in a 78-78 tie.
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