Football season arrived a few months early for residents in a local community. The sight was familiar to Ernie Sims, as he saw football players on the field, cheerleaders on the sidelines, and proud parents in the stands.
However, instead of playing like he does on Sundays in the fall, Sims was a coach and leader.
And despite the different role for Sims, the location was familiar. Sims grew up playing on these same fields in the Jake Gaither Community.
Delmas Barber, a longtime Tallahassee resident, remembers when Sims was 10 years old playing pee-wee football at the local park. Now 17 years later, Barber is proud to see the National Football League star returning to his roots.
It was a far cry from what Sims was exposed to as a kid. Sims recalls growing up and “nobody coming in and having camps.”
But this summer hundreds of young boys and girls joined Sims for his fifth annual football and cheer camp. Residents of the local Jake Gaither neighborhood were thrilled to see the local product giving back to the community. The football and cheer camp was held at Springsax Recreation Park.
Barber, who is also a member of Sims’ Big Hits Foundation, was thrilled for the weekend’s activities. Barber said the purpose of the camp is to “show local kids that someone cares, especially Ernie”.
This year’s camp was special as it included a first-ever family fun run at Tom Brown Park and was intended to raise awareness for Lupus Disease.
The disease has greatly affected the Sims’ family. Ernie lost his sister to the disease when she was 12 years old, and his father was recently diagnosed with the disease. The earnings from the fun run will go to the Lupus Support Network.
But Sims is not alone, other local residents turned NFL players have hosted camps in recent years. Earlier this summer, former Tallahassee native and NFL player William Gay hosted a football camp at Rickards High School for local youth. Also Antonio Cromartie held camps in Tallahassee to provide a chance for local youth to develop their skills on the field.
“It’s great to see NFL stars return home and give back to the community”, said Brandon Thomas a Tallahassee native and Sims supporter.