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VIDEO: Panthers-turned-pro return home to host youth football camp

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Liberty County High School played host to the inaugural Friday Night Lights Football Skills Camp on Friday, June 24, for eighth- through 12th-grade students, where campers learned the basic drills and fundamentals of the game of football while getting a taste of what the NFL is like.

Two Liberty County High alumni and current NFL players took part in the event: Richard Le-Counte, a former Georgia Bulldog now with the Cleveland Browns, and Raekwon McMillan, currently with the New England Patriots and formerly of the Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders.

Like the basketball camp headlined by Jordan McRae earlier that day (see Sports, page 14), both LeCounte and Mc-Millan were there to give kids in Liberty County an opportunity to learn what it takes to play football and the hard work and dedication required in order to find success at the next level.

LeCounte was inspired to participate in the event as a way of celebrating his hometown roots and others wanting to follow in his footsteps.

“Being from a small town, we want to give to the younger generation,” he said. “We want them to be able to utilize their tools and learn a lot from us.”

McMillan agreed, adding that he hoped the camp created a space where kids could enjoy themselves.

“I just want to have the kids out here and see smiles on their faces and see the community come out and actually get involved with the youth so they can build upon what we have now,” he said.

Farren Benjamin, Mc-Millan’s marketing agent and publicist, expressed her appreciation for what they are doing.

“It’s always about bringing together the community,” Benjamin said. “You can watch Raekwon and know that he knows everybody here, so bringing the community together for him is a really big thing, and that’s something he’s about 24/7/365.”

Both men also paid their deepest respects to Coach Kirk Warner following his passing earlier this month. LeCounte said that Warner inspired his players and made them believe they could be all that they wanted to be. McMillan echoed that sentiment, adding that Warner made them feel like warriors and kept them focused on the football field instead of on trouble they could have gotten into in the streets.

“He always kept us going,” McMillan said. “He always kept us motivated that you could be somebody — all you had to do was wake up and try again tomorrow.

“It’s a blessing to be able to be in this position to bring the kids and the community out,” he said about hosting the camp. “Coach Warner would have wanted this. He would have been out here with a big smile and having a good old time.”

McMillan said Warner served his purpose in the world, from the minute he was born to the minute he died, and that his former coach helped shape him into the man he is today.

LeCounte said he felt like Warner was on the field with them on Friday, watching over them.

“I love Coach Warner, and I love Liberty County,” he said. “This is the place that raised me. So, when I come out here and I take this field, I take everything that I do 100 percent.”

He said he owed it to his coach and the community to give back as much as possible and that with a bit of sacrifice, hard work and dedication, you can do anything.

LeCounte said Warner provided him a lot of guidance, especially in areas in which he was unsure.

“I appreciate him, and I miss him,” LeCounte said. “I’m still taking it all in now. Being able to accept his death is going to be a hard thing for me.”

Courier editor Patty Leon contributed to this report.

2015 commissioners cup
The Liberty County High School football team celebrates winning the Commissioners Cup in this photo from 2015, including former Panther and current Cleveland Brown player Richard LeCounte (4), seated at front left, and coach Kirk Warner, center, standing with football in hand. Warner passed away on June 16, and LeCounte and former Panther teammate Raekwon McMillan, now with the New England Patriots, held a football camp on June 24 honoring their former coach. Courier file photo