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Amazing way to give back
Guyton has festival at Bradwell
Georgia Tech player Jason Hill and Patriots Darryl Richard and Gary Guyton challenge teams of Bradwell Institute students and community members during the bingo portion of Friday’s Amazing Race challenge. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

Local’s journey to the NFL

Becoming an NFL player takes hard work, dedication, athleticism and endless time on the field and in the workout room.

Former Bradwell Tiger Gary Guyton spent countless hours perfecting his skills and hitting the books in high school and in college at Georgia Tech. As a Yellow Jackets linebacker, his dedication to athletics and academics — and a great showing at the NFL combine — eventually landed him a spot with the New England Patriots. But according to his agent, Richard Kopelman of Kopelman Law and Sports Services in Atlanta, things were rocky at first.

"Everybody is familiar with what happened during the draft," Kopelman said about Guyton not being selected during the 2008 NFL Draft. "It was surprising to everyone, but we were as well prepared as we could be. We thought Gary would go higher — everybody did — but it worked out great. One of the nice things about being a priority free-agent is you get to put yourself in the position where you think you can do best."

He said the Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints kept the phones ringing, each expressing interest in Guyton.

"Bill Belichick kept calling Gary," Kopelman said. "Gary kind of fit the mold for the Patriots. He is smart, versatile, athletic and very coachable. So we figured this is a great organization, so we thought about it, slept on it, prayed on it and Gary went off to New England."

Kopelman recalled the moment Guyton caught his attention as a senior at Georgia Tech.

"Gary called with an interesting question, which very few of the athletes will ever ask," Kopelman said. Guyton asked, "‘What about after football? What do you think you can do for me when I’m done playing football?’ And I said, ‘I’m really happy you asked that question because that is really what we say is the crux of the business.’ Football is a pretty short career usually, and so I knew at that point that I wanted Gary on board and I told him what I thought we could do and the next day he called and said he had selected my company to represent him."

Kopelman said 2009-10 was a breakout season for Guyton.

"I think what really made the difference for Gary was when Jerrod Mayo was hurt this past season and they asked Gary to lead the defense and call the signals," he said. "I think, in keeping with Gary’s personality, if there’s a challenge, he is going to rise to the occasion. He stepped up, he did a great job. He led the team in tackles in all three of those games, played extremely well and I think it was a huge boost to his confidence.

"I noticed the difference in his play just in terms of how he looked out on the field. He just looked more confident. Even off the field he became much more confident in himself and it’s been great," the agent said.

Kopelman said Guyton is active in charitable events and is well-adjusted as a player. He said he thinks the world of Guyton, and, as with all his clients, he advises they save and invest their money wisely. Kopelman said he’s confident Guyton has a clear vision of what he would like to have in his future.

The sun came out long enough Friday afternoon for participants to put their bodies and minds to the test in an "Amazing Race"-style competition that pitted teams of students and community members against former BI Tiger and current NFL linebacker Gary Guyton and his friends. The challenge kicked off the first-ever Gary Guyton Sports Festival, held Friday and Saturday at Bradwell Institute.

Guyton teamed up with his New England Patriot teammate Darryl Richard and two teammates from his days at Georgia Tech, Jason Hill and Brad Jefferson, to challenge several local teams. The race tested the competitors’ athletic abilities with physical contests and mental prowess with math problems and word games. At one point, team members ran blindfolded around the bases on the baseball field. Any team unable to complete a task got stuck with an additional 15-minute time penalty.

"It was a lot of fun," Guyton said after the race. "We took a couple of penalties, but it was a lot of fun and a lot of running. But we enjoyed it."

The game and the event were organized by Flying Colors Sports, an Ohio-based public and community relations firm that serves professional athletes all over the country. Greg Benton, owner of Flying Colors Sports, said he’s been in business for five years.

"We work with pro athletes around the country and we help them get engaged in the community, to give back," Benton said. "We help them organize functions to get involved with kids and do charity work. Most of the players or clients we work with come from communities where they actually had mentors who did that for them and it’s nice for them to come full circle and give back to the next generation. And our hope is that this is something that will continue."

When Guyton saw an opportunity to give back to the community where he grew up, he said he took it and decided on a sports festival. He told the student athletes he was just like them when he attended high school and said with hard work, anything is possible.

"Stay in school, keep working out and do what you have to do and it will pay off in the long run," he said. "Life is way bigger than Hinesville, but first you have to do everything here."

Guyton has been busy with charity work, according to his agent, Richard Kopelman.

Kopelman said Guyton had a fundraiser for a New England boy who was paralyzed.

"He had an amazing turnout on a Thursday night in the middle of winter," Kopelman said. "Just to watch Gary, just as he is with people who he knows, he’s the same way with people that he’s never met. He is very engaging, a great young guy."

The linebacker said he jumped at the chance to help the young athletes. "He was paralyzed, but I think he is getting some movement in his legs now," Guyton said of the boy. "I heard about him. He became paralyzed playing football so from one athlete to the next ... This is a very dangerous sport, so once I got the call and they told me about it, I said, ‘Let’s go for it. Let’s do it.’"

Being able to give back to his own community is something Guyton always planned to do.

"It feels good to come out here and have support from your family and friends," he said. "Everybody came out and supported the event and I think it’s a good thing, and I’m happy people showed up and are enjoying it. We had a pretty good crowd today, so I’m happy."

The event was set to continue Saturday with football, cheerleading and basketball clinics throughout the day. In the evening, Guyton had plans for a 3-point shooting contest and a celebrity vs. coaches basketball game.

"A lot to a little, my favor," the NFL star said when asked what the final score of the basketball game would be. "I’m putting up a lot of numbers tomorrow — LeBron James numbers."

See Wednesday’s Coastal Courier for a wrap up of all of Saturday’s activities.

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