He was 10 years old and it was a regular routine to go to the gym after school to play ball. But this one afternoon, a group of kids he hadn't seen before showed up. And things weren't so regular.
"We thought they were from a neighboring school," Blast forward Rusty Troy told the 300 children gathered for an assembly at John Ruhrah Elementary School in East Baltimore yesterday. "We'd play ball with anyone, but we noticed during the game some of them would leave and come back. When the game was over, one of them came up to me and said he had drugs and asked me if I wanted some. Not only did I tell him no, I told the coaches who monitored the after-school games and they took care of it. Those guys never came back."
The Blast, Signet Bank and the Drug Enforcement Administration kicked off an Anti-Drug Assembly program yesterday that will send DEA spokesman Thomas Russo and four members of the Blast -- Troy, Joe Barger, Mike Reynolds and Mark Mettrick -- to at least 12 elementary and middle schools to speak out against drugs.
"We had first grade through fifth at the assembly," said school principal Beverly Ellinwood. "These children look up to all athletes and this lets them know how adults feel about staying away from drugs."
Troy grew up in a good neighborhood in Irving, Texas, and says he did not know much about drugs.
"They were scarce," he recalled. "I just wasn't presented with the problem. My friends were like me. We were all just interested in running and burning energy. There was only one or two incidents like the one I told them about. But this program, I'm glad to be doing it, because I think it is important.
"I looked in those kids' faces and knew some of them didn't know anything about drugs, that others knew a little and that for others it was in their homes. After I spoke, one little kid came up to me and told me, 'My mom does drugs.' I said, 'The best thing you can do is just tell her how you feel.' "
Troy said he doesn't pretend he knows everything about drugs, but he tells the children he doesn't abuse drugs or alcohol.
"I told them they don't want to do drugs and they don't want their friends to do drugs," he said. "I told them if they know of drugs to talk to their friends, their parents and if need be a counselor. If they want to write me a letter care of the Blast, I'd be glad to help as much as I can.
"This program isn't about soccer and professional sports," Troy emphasized. "It's about keeping your life clean and how important that is."