The 88 players participating in Saturday's SCADA North-South All-Star Football Game learned more about giving than hand-offs and center-snap exchanges on Thursday.
Both squads broke early from morning workouts to take part in "Brandon Frye Gives Back," a program started by the former Myrtle Beach High standout and current NFL player to take under-privileged children on a Christmas shopping spree.
"I was one of those kids who didn't have a lot growing up and I remember what it was like," said Frye, who is on injured reserve with the Seattle Seahawks. "It feels good to help kids from that same environment have a good Christmas."
This is the third year Frye has led the program, but this is the first time he was able to get the North-South players involved. One player from each side teamed to adopt one child for the day and help spend $100 at the Myrtle Beach Wal-Mart.
"We had a lot of fun shopping with the kids," said Marlboro County and South offensive lineman Lee Pegues, who joined with South Pointe and North wide receiver Quinton Darby to shop with a 10-year-old Myrtle Beach girl. "She spent more money shopping for her family than she did for herself."
And that was the message Frye was trying to deliver to the players and the kids - it is better to give than receive. He hopes the program will encourage them to do more in the future.
"With these guys being all-stars, they are going to have opportunities to go to college and get good jobs, maybe even play in the NFL one day," he said. "I hope this is something that sticks with them, to give back to the community and help those less fortunate than themselves."
After the shopping spree, Frye treated players and children to lunch at the Golden Corral. The players went back to afternoon practice with a hot meal in their bellies and a warm spot in their hearts.
"Of all the fun things we've got to do down here, that was the best," said Darby. "It makes you feel good inside to help kids."
Girls gone recruiting? North defensive end Brandon Willis says he is rock-solid on his verbal commitment to play football at Tennessee despite an NCAA investigation into whether Tennessee used hostesses from Orange Pride to influence his and other recruits' decisions.
Willis was one of three Byrnes players to be interviewed by the NCAA about female students he met while attending football camp at UT. They later attended a Byrnes home game this season, flashing a sign that read "Come to Tennessee." But that was after Willis and teammate Corey Miller had already committed to the Volunteers.
"I took my official visit there and I liked the coaching staff, the campus, the whole atmosphere," said Willis, avoiding any direct comment about the NCAA investigation. "I'm looking forward to going there in the fall."
Willis' father, Gary Willis, did address the issue in an interview with the Greenville News. "You're talking about my son and something that he has worked hard for. It's not going to be based upon no girls, I promise you that," he said.
"These girls had nothing to do with the impact when my son decided he would go to school at Tennessee."
Call me Mr. Football. The 2009 South Carolina Mr. Football Award will be presented at the Myrtle Beach High School Performing Arts Center at 7 tonight.
The five finalists are Bruce Ellington (Berkeley), DeAndre Hopkins (Daniel), Malcolm Howard (Goose Creek), Marcus Lattimore (Byrnes) and Dylan Pace Thompson (Boiling Springs).
Lattimore, who is ranked in the top five of most major recruiting services and one of the most sought-after running backs in the nation, is the frontrunner for the award.
Lattimore, who has narrowed his college choices to Auburn, Georgia, Oregon, Penn State and South Carolina, rushed for 1,904 yards and 31 touchdowns while also catching 48 passes for 675 yards and five scores for the Rebels this season.
The winner will be announced tonight in Myrtle Beach. A look at the finalists (in alphabetical order):
COMMITTED TO: Signed with South Carolina (basketball)
STATS: Ellington rushed for 2,191 yards and 34 touchdowns and threw for more than 700 yards.
COMMITTED TO: Clemson
STATS: Hopkins had 37 catches for 731 yards and nine touchdowns and 35 tackles and six interceptions.
SCHOOL: Goose Creek
CONSIDERING: Clemson, South Carolina, Duke, Miami (Fla.)
STATS: Howard had 122 tackles, six for loss, four sacks and an interception.
POSITION: Running back
CONSIDERING: South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia, Oregon, Penn State
STATS: Lattimore rushed for 1,898 yards and 31 touchdowns.
SCHOOL: Boiling Springs
COMMITTED TO: South Carolina
STATS: Thompson threw for 2,466 yards and 26 touchdowns.
- The (Spartanburg) Herald Journal