Saturday, April 19, 2014

TOP STORY >> Super Bowl champ returns home for tribute

Leader staff writer

Super Bowl Champion Clinton McDonald came back home this week to help raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Jacksonville, a place that allowed him to make friends and grow into the humble man he is today.

McDonald, a former defensive tackle for the Seattle Sea-hawks who recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was the guest speaker of the Boys and Girls Club banquet on Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center.

“We are here to honor a great entity in this community, the Boys and Girls Club. This isn’t about me. I’m just a product that came out,” McDonald said.

McDonald, his brothers, sisters and friends went to the Boys and Girls Club during the summers when they were young to play and get a meal.

One time, McDonald’s father and community members got together and — through the Boys and Girls Club — took some kids to a flight school.

“They taught us about the Tuskegee Airmen and other pilots. It opened our minds to aviation and flying. We went to a hangar and got a chance to fly,” McDonald said.

He remembered wondering how many other kids ever had the chance to fly in a private plane and being grateful that someone was taking time out of their busy schedule to do it.

McDonald said, when Seattle won the Super Bowl, his teammates were in the back of the plane saying, “Hey Champ”. They were laughing because they accomplished something people only dream about.

McDonald told the guests that one of Seahawks’ coaches turned the conversion around and said, “It is a responsibility being a champ. Everyone knows your face. What are you going to do with that responsibility?

“My responsibility is to come back to the community or the community I’m in and affect it in a positive manner that Christ wanted me to affect it. For me to do (youth football) camps in Jacksonville was not to get glory for it. God has blessed me enough that I can be fine if I did not want to do anything else,” the football player said.

“But, at the same time, it’s a responsibility he blessed me with as well, to give back and be a part of Jacksonville. God has made it so that I stand here today as a Super Bowl champion and as a champion in his eyes, to be an example to this community,” McDonald said.

“This Boys and Girls Club has more impact on the children than we know,” he continued.

McDonald said the Boys and Girls Club helps children see their value and see that they can succeed. The club produces a lot of great people and needs the community to make sure opportunities remain open for the children and for people for who want to participate and give back wholeheartedly, he noted.

“The Boys and Girls Club means a sacrifice. A responsibility for (director) Laura (Walker) and (athletic director) Mike (Williams) that they take out of their busy schedule every day and make sure the children are taken care of,” McDonald said.

He said it is one thing to have, but it is another to give back your time, sometimes money, effort or a word of encouragement to a young child. “You never know which flower is going to bloom the brightest. You water them all the same. Today, I just happen to be the flower that bloomed. It’s not by chance, but the grace of God,” McDonald said.

He said there is another star in Jacksonville who needs somewhere to go and get creative, to let that anger off, to come to after school, to learn different things, to meet new people. That is the Boys and Girls Club, McDonald said. They do not deny kids. They allow them to grow and mature, he explained.

McDonald said, without the club, he may not have become the well-rounded person he is today. And he is still friends with people he first met there as a 6-year-old.

The Boys and Girls Club encourages youngsters to get out of their comfort zones and see what the world has to offer, McDonald said.

During the banquet, Mayor Gary Fletcher gave McDonald the key to the city. Fletcher said, “He loves people and it shows. He is a great role model for our young people.”

 The Boys and Girls Club of Jacksonville presented $500 scholarships to Kayla Williams and Tiffany Smith. Both are 12th graders.

 The Dub Myers Leader-ship Award, a $500 scholarship, went to Sierra Thompson, a 10th grader at Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School.

 Chris Perry was given the Boys and Girls Club’s Volunteer of the Year Award.