CONYERS — Grady Jarrett exudes class, sometimes without even trying to.
Giving back to the community that he grew up in has always held a special place in his heart. Spending both his childhood and adolescent years being shaped and molded by Conyers the former Rockdale County football star turned Atlanta Falcon has always found time to return home.
Jarrett has accomplished that with his annual youth football camp, which has taken place every June since 2016. With turnout increasing with each passing year and the eagerness to help put on a great event, Jarrett was back at his alma mater this past Saturday doing just that.
Thanks to steady rain throughout the area, the camp was pushed indoors, but that didn’t put a damper on the fun, Jarrett said.
“It’s so much fun to come back,” Jarrett said. “This is the fourth time doing it and it’s grown every year. It seems like we catch some rain every year, too, but thankfully Rockdale has a nice gym. A lot of kids got some work in and we added in a cheer camp this year. They were having a lot of fun with that, so I’m excited and glad, even though the elements weren’t in our favor.”
Also making his return to Conyers was Neville Hewitt, a former Rockdale County football standout himself now starring for the New York Jets. Having graduated from Rockdale County with Jarrett in 2011, the good friend didn’t hesitate to make the trip down when called upon.
“I’ve been coming ever since he started these camps,” Hewitt said. “It’s cool, man. Just to come back to our school and see that he has a camp, it’s awesome. He’s doing more and more in the community. For me, why not come? This is like a homecoming for me when I come back.”
Not having too many opportunities to return back to Rockdale throughout the year, Hewitt said it was a breath of fresh air to step inside the Bulldogs’ gym for the first time in eight years.
“You end up seeing old teammates, old coaches. It’s cool,” Hewitt said. “With our profession, we’re always doing something and are always busy. When you get a little time to yourself, it gives you opportunities like this to come and see people that care about you and helped you along the way. It’s awesome. It’s truly a blessing.”
Hewitt wasn’t the only former or current teammate of Jarrett’s to show their face at Rockdale Saturday morning. Current Falcons teammates Vic Beasley and Mohamed Sanu both made appearances and showed their support. For Beasley, who first met Jarrett while teammates at Clemson, said it was a blast to make the trip down to Conyers.
“To have this platform, it is amazing to give back to our communities,” Beasley said. “We’re both very supportive of one another. He comes to my camp and I support his. I remember myself being in that position growing up and looking up to certain role models. These kids look up to us and admire us a lot. So it’s a blessing to be able to give them something that we never had.”
Having spent a lot of time around Jarrett for the past eight years, Beasley said he is easily one of the most kind-hearted human beings he has ever had the pleasure of meeting.
“He’s a great guy,” Beasley said. “I’ve had the chance for the past eight years to know him and grow up with him. The type of person he is and the personality that he has, it’s amazing. He has a great family and he’s a great person off the football field.”
For the the city of Conyers, Hewitt said youth camps like these can make a massive impact on everyone involved.
“I think it’s huge, especially for guys that go to the school,” Hewitt said. “They are able to see someone that was here, someone who has walked the halls of this campus and has lived in this town. It just lets them know that if they want to do what I’ve done, it’s possible. Everyone that knows my story knows that it wasn’t easy. So if I can do it, you can do it to if you put your mind to it.”
Jarrett said that to have guys like Hewitt and Beasley taking the time out of their busy schedules to help support him means more than they knows.
“It’s awesome, especially having Neville back,” Jarrett said. “Then having Vic come and support me, a guy that I’ve played with for so long, it means a lot to me. Being back at this school, It brings back a lot of old memories. Every time I get on the football field, I think about some old games. There have been lot of changes around here and the kids deserve it.”
With the conclusion of Jarrett’s camp Saturday, both Jarrett and Hewitt, as well as Beasley and Sanu, have all reported to their respective mandatory minicamps with the upcoming 2019 NFL season set to kick off next September.