Saying it was wonderful to be home, former BI Tiger turned New England Patriot Gary Guyton walked into the Tigers’ gym Friday night to tip-off his second annual sports fest with a Pros versus Joes basketball game.
With former Georgia Tech teammates Darryl Richards and Michael Johnson, South Georgia Kings founder Jessie Fleming, and a host of local rap artists in tow, Guyton’s Pros team seemed poised to repeat last year’s 101-99 win against the Joes.
Richards is currently with the New England Patriots and Johnson with the Cincinnati Bengals.
But this year the Joes, made up of the football coaching staff of BI, Hinesville police officer David Guy, former BI and University of Minnesota football and basketball player Marcus Singletary, track coach Brian Williams and weightlifting coach Aaron Mock pulled out a 72-64 win. Guy, who played semi-pro basketball, also kept the Joes ahead by hitting three trey shots from the outside corner.
After the fun on the court, it was time for business and Guyton and fellow NFL players mingled with the kids, signed autographs, posed for photos and talked about the importance of education.
Guyton’s two-day festival continued Saturday with a series of football and cheerleading camps. Representatives from Georgia Tech were scheduled to talk with parents and student athletes about college recruiting.
"At the end of the day the last thing we have to fall back on is our academics," Guyton said as he spoke about why he is committed to the community he grew up in and the students of his former high school. "So anything that I can do to push the kids forward toward education, academics and college, that’s what I’m all about.
"Today is a good day. We are all out here to support the kids, support their academics, have a good time and give back to my community. This is where I’m from and I’m here to experience some good times along with the people I grew up with. This hometown and anything I can do to make it better, I’m here to do."
The sports festival also served a charity dear to Guyton’s heart. Adopt-A-High School Initiative helps under-privileged kids prepare for SATs through tutoring and mentoring.
Greg Benton of Flying Color Sports, a public relations firm that produces the annual event, said Guyton is committed to giving back to his community.
"Gary is absolutely awesome," Benton said. "Not only him, but, as you can tell, his core group of athletes that came with him. They are all quality people, quality players and just a pleasure to work with. People in this town love Gary and ... only 10 percent of the guys in the NFL do things like this. So he is in a really elite group of players that have that mindset that it’s important, while you’ll here, to make an impression on the kids in your neighborhood and that is what he is doing."
Benton said Guyton wants student athletes to be better informed and know what will be expected of them if they try and take their high school athletics to the next level and beyond.
Benton and Guyton scheduled representatives from Georgia Tech to educate the parents and students on college recruiting procedures.
"There are a lot of myths in regards to the recruiting process and in some instances they place the load of the responsibility on the counselors and the coaches," Benton said. "We took the initiative to have Georgia Tech come out and inform the parents and the students on the things they need to do during their freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior years."
Benton said they expected twice as many participants during Saturday’s camp session.
He said the NFL players were looking forward to working with the kids and teaching them the fundamentals of football and imparting their knowledge of the game to young open minds.
"For example Gary will take a group of kids that are really interested in playing varsity linebacker and he will guide them and teach them some of the things he wished he knew then that he knows now from his personal experience," Benton said.
Johnson is no stranger to football camps and clinics. He assisted his cousin Cedric Dickerson, a former Canadian League football player and BI grad, run an annual clinic for the Liberty County Recreation Department. He said when Guyton called him up asking for help he didn’t hesitate.
"He is my teammate," said Johnson about his former Yellow Jacket teammate. "It’s just natural for me, when someone asks me to do something, especially with kids and giving back to the community. It’s just what I enjoy doing. A lot of people helped me out in my life and I appreciate that. And I know that kids will appreciate us coming down here and doing stuff for them. You never know what you may say to a kid or a kid may see you do that could affect him for the rest of their life."