Heaving the football downfield toward a waiting group of youngsters, Ravens nose guard Terrence Cody smiled as he picked out his target.
During a sweltering Saturday at Reisterstown Regional Park, Cody was among a group of several Ravens who took part in inside linebacker Jameel McClain's annual football and fitness clinic.
"Oh man, it's special," Cody said. "You don't get nothing else like this. To see these kids smiling and having fun and interacting with everybody, is a blessing.
"It's good being out here even though it's hot. The kids don't care. That's the main reason they're out here is to see us."
Conducted in association with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake, the session was attended by roughly 300 boys and girls ages 5 to 17.
Despite the heat, it didn't dim the enthusiasm as the kids had a good time hanging out with Cody, McClain, offensive tackle Michael Oher, former Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, inside linebacker Bryan Hall, defensive lineman Arthur Jones, former Ravens outside linebacker Edgar Jones, who now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, and inside linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale.
"We can't change the world overnight, but we can at least plant the seed in some kid and he may change his perspective or be able to reflect when a difficult situation comes up," McClain said. "It's amazing. We always have a great time. It's good to see these kids out here working instead of being in the house."
A few weeks before the Ravens report to training camp at team headquarters, Oher spent hours under the hot sun encouraging the campers to have fun.
Oher saluted McClain for his community involvement, which includes being a global ambassador for an anti-bullying campaign.
"Jameel does a lot of great stuff all the time," Oher said. "The kids, they love it when professional athletes come out here. I always have a good time with Jameel. He's one of my best friends."
Added Hall: "Jameel has been doing a good job, and this is getting bigger and better. I'm glad he let me come out here."
McClain's camp had several volunteers and partners, including support from MedStar Health, Modell's, Macy's and Dick's Sporting Goods.
"It's about getting kids engaged," said Bradley Chambers, the president of MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, senior vice president of MedStar Health and the board chair of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Chesapeake. "It's a wonderful partnership with Jameel. It's about cultivating relationships with kids, bringing together kids from different backgrounds, keeping them physically fit and motivated. It's good role models for kids to follow. They look up to the guys. Out here in this heat, they see a different side of these guys."
McClain was honored recently by the NAACP chapter of Baltimore for his community activism.
"What's wonderful is you have a role model, leader and NFL player who's good and giving his time along with his friends and other players to tell young people about the importance of athleticism and the importance of character and leadership," said Selwyn Ray, the senior vice president of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake. "When we think about mentors, we think about people like Jameel and his friends."
Ellerbe signed with the Miami Dolphins during the offseason, making a special trip into Baltimore from South Florida to attend the clinic.
"It's always good to come back here where I started my career and give back to the kids and make their day," Ellerbe said. "To be here is awesome. It's a great feeling."
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