WILMINGTON — After 2.5 hours of shuttling between football drills inside Chase Fieldhouse and outside in the heat, it was time for the kids to ask questions of the three NFL players from Delaware.
So one of the 250 campers at the TITUS Free Community Football Clinic asked Darnell Savage, a safety for the Green Bay Packers on Friday, who is a better defensive back than him?
Savage didn’t hesitate and replied, “No one!”
SPRING STARS:5 players who stood out in Eagles OTAs, including 3 wide receivers in contention for roster spot
BLUE-GOLD BROTHERHOOD:Brotherly Love Fuels This Player’s Blue-Gold Football Experience
Another asked Brian O’Neill, a Minnesota Vikings right tackle, what it’s like to play with wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who is the first player in NFL history with at least 3,000 receiving yards in his first two seasons.
A quick aside: Yes, Jefferson still haunts the Eagles, who took wide receiver Jalen Reagor with the 21st pick of the 2020 draft, one pick ahead of Jefferson.
“Love it,” exclaimed O’Neill.
And another asked Troy Reeder, who started as a linebacker for Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams last season before moving to the LA Chargers in the offseason, if he would have been sad if the Rams lost the Super Bowl to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Very sad,” Reeder replied, later adding, “I would have been crushed.”
Instead, Reeder brought a replica of the Vince Lombardi Trophy with him, and he was exuberant as he showed it off.
The kids, ages 8 to 16, listened intently not only during the Q&A session, but also during the various drills that included a mini NFL Combine (timed 40-yard dash, bench press, long jump and more exercises), as well as offensive and defensive exercises.
And really, for Reeder, O’Neill and Savage, the experience was just as rewarding as they participated in some of the drills with the kids. They had grown up working at Titus, founded and run by Shawn Hoffman. They each credited those workouts with getting them to play in high school, college, and now in the NFL.
And they were determined to give back. The clinic was part of a program to raise funds to start a Titus Scholarship to provide opportunities for local athletes who otherwise could not afford to train at Titus, which is hosted at Chase Fieldhouse .
Reeder, O’Neill and Savage have contributed more than $50,000 to the cause, and area businesses have donated as well.
“We felt this Titus program pushed us to achieve our goals,” Reeder said. “So it’s important to us. Our goal is that the money raised from this will ultimately help underprivileged kids who will have a chance to play at the college level, or just really good high school players.
“They need it, and I think it’s really cool to give these guys that extra edge to become the next Darnell Savage, Brian O’Neill or Troy Reeder.”
Reeder and O’Neill went to high school at Salesianum, while Savage went to Caravel Academy. Reeder began his college career at Penn State before transferring to Delaware, while O’Neill went to Pittsburgh and Savage in Maryland.
Now they are in the NFL. Savage was the Packers’ first-round pick in 2019, while O’Neill was the Vikings’ second-round pick in 2018. Reeder signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2019 before moving to the Chargers in March.
“It all started with the love of the game,” Reeder said. “Darnell was in the eighth grade, I was in the freshman year (in high school), Brian was in the freshman year and we were here because we wanted to play on our high school teams.”
Savage, for his part, said he could see a younger version of himself in the campers.
“It brought you back to a point where you were at that age,” he said. “To see this is where I started, everyone has a chance. You just have to stay the course and stay dedicated. If you do the right things, most of the time things work out for you.
“When you’re that age, you don’t really know what’s next. You just go day to day. Someone telling you not to waste your opportunities, to make the most of your opportunities, to work hard, doing good in school, all that kind of stuff, it means a lot.”
It was the same for O’Neill.
“Give them the belief that Delaware athletes have reached the highest levels and encourage them to know it’s possible,” he said.
The message touched the campers.
“They’re from your community and they did what you wanted to do,” said Mekhi Cannon, aspiring senior linebacker at Caravel Academy. “They’re giving back… They’ve been through Titus and put this work in place. It shows me that I have to stay in this.”
The three NFL players had wanted to do something like this for the past two years, but couldn’t because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They were therefore delighted to finally have this chance. And that’s also why they plan to make it an annual event.
“With that turnout? Absolutely,” Savage said with a laugh. “I don’t want to spoiler, but I totally agree.”
Reeder and O’Neill said they felt the same way.
Eagles add security
On Friday, the Eagles signed veteran safety Jaquiski Tartt to a one-year contract. Tartt was the 49ers’ second-round pick in 2015, and he became a full-time starter two years later. In all, Tartt played 80 games, all with the 49ers. He has 4 career interceptions.
Tartt is expected to compete for a starting spot with Marcus Epps and Anthony Harris.
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected] Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.