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Gurley proves to be relatable

040217ToddGurley2

Los Angeles Rams running back and former Tarboro High School standout Todd Gurley, right, cheers on participants in the fastest camper race Saturday during his youth football camp at Tarboro High School. Washington Redskins running back Keith Marshall, left, and San Francisco 49ers running back Mike Davis, second from left, also watch the race.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Sunday, April 2, 2017

TARBORO — All of the kids sat in a large circle on the choppy grass that is Tarboro High School’s football field. The kids were waiting for the main attraction of the day — Todd Gurley.

The former Tarboro standout, Heisman Trophy contender at Georgia and current NFL star was in town hosting a football camp. This portion of the three-hour chunk of Saturday morning was question and answer. This was the chance to ask Gurley anything that came to mind.

Several inquiries lobbed at Gurley included “Do you ever get nervous carrying the ball when you run into the hole?” Another, asked by a young boy squinting into the sun, wondered if Gurley cries when he gets hurt.

More questions were asked about how he felt during his first NFL game, what was the most touchdowns he scored in a quarter, while one question wanted to know what he ate for breakfast. All questions burning to be asked by young minds.

The questions allowed for a sliver of insight into a child’s mind, and what they truly wanted to know about a professional athlete. Some were purely in awe by numbers. Others wondered aloud if it was OK to cry, because if Todd Gurley does, it must be OK. It’s a reminder of what type of impact these athletes have on children, as well as high schoolers and even adults, too.

The kids in the gray shirts, the Tarboro High School students, kept the camp humming along. On a regular Saturday morning, Ken Belcher would have been in a gym lifting weights, before transitioning to the couch. Instead, the junior was coaching one of 24 groups of kids, throwing passes and stuffing handoffs into the chest of campers.

Romello Denton-Pippin, spinning a football in his hand, didn’t feel out of place. He learned that those professional athletes are normal guys who happen to be really good at, in this case, football. Denton-Pippin attended another Tarboro grad and NFLer Shaun Draughn’s charity bowling event Friday night, and saw a lighter side of these guys.

“They seem like regular people,” he said. “They chill, they cool. It’s nothing different to me. Gurley talked to us before the North Hampton game, and told us we can do anything he can do. He talked about studying hard, staying in school so you can make it.

“It’s great that he can come back to his hometown and show kids some important parts of life.”

For defensive lineman Belcher, Gurley’s involvement in the football program has only served as inspiration. Belcher spent chunks of his winter learning about basketball. He wanted to be a better player in the post, and his footwork and positioning required a lot of attention.

He drew his inspiration from Gurley’s words.

“You don’t want to be a five-percenter,” Belcher said. “He’s a guy who doesn’t say much, but preaches by example. You have to give 100 percent. You have to be one of those guys to be successful at what you want to do.”

“He talks to the team, tells us to be on point for grades. He talks a lot about work ethic. Everybody was talking about the camps for weeks.” 

That’s what makes Gurley relatable. He’s big, strong, fast, and when he’s not making commercials or breaking tackles, he seems to have a way of being a regular human. That’s what most of the kids wanted to see at the camp, and that’s what they got in the form of his answers.

He cries sometimes, he forgot to eat breakfast, he used to get nervous running the ball until he did it so often that it became second nature.

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