LUMBERTON — Vonta Leach had an unusual year in 2014.
After 10 seasons as a fullback in the NFL, the 33-year-old Rowland native was sidelined as a free agent during the 2014 season.
While it was his first year not playing football in some time, Leach didn’t see it as road block, but as an opportunity to make more time for other things.
“I actually enjoyed (having the time) to spend with family and deal with a lot of stuff as far as business and personal things,” said Leach, a three-time All-Pro and a former Super Bowl Champion with the Baltimore Ravens. “I’m not just sitting around waiting for a phone call. I do want to play again, but I can go out happy with what I’ve accomplished in my 10 years.”
While throwing blocks to pave the way for running backs is on hold at the moment, Leach continues to pave the way in supporting his community.
He’ll host the 10th annual Vonta Leach Foundation Youth Football and Cheer Camp on Saturday at Lumberton High School.
On-site registration begins at 8 a.m., with the camp starting at 9. Participants get lunch, a free t-shirt and autographs.
Participants between the ages of 6 and 16 will get the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of football and cheerleading, as well as leadership development, team-building and self-improvement skills. The football portion of the event includes coaching from professional players on skills including passing, receiving and blocking. Cheerleaders will learn choreography from former Charlotte Hornets cheerleaders.
“It means a lot to be able to do this every year,” Leach said. “When I started the camp I never knew it would grow into something this big. I wasn’t fortunate enough to go to camps with NFL players when I was young so it’s special.”
More than 700 kids are expected to attend the event. The camp caps a weekend that includes the foundation’s third-annual casino night fundraiser on Friday night at 7:30 p.m., where adults aged 21 and up can play casino games among NFL stars.
The night serves as the main fundraiser for the annual camp.
“It’s a good chance for people to come out and mingle with the guys,” Leach said. “It also enables me to continue my free camp and sponsor kids on the holidays. All the money raised goes to the foundation to support the community.”
Per usual, the attendees of the camp will be learning and hearing from some current and former NFL players, including former Tar Heels and Super Bowl Champions, Willie Parker and William Henderson. Ron Dayne, an NFL veteran and Heisman Trophy winner during his time at Wisconsin, will also be helping with the camp along with other stars.
“It means a lot that these guys think enough of me to help out,” Leach said. “A lot of them come from similar walks of life and can give the kids motivation.”
As a kid who grew up in Robeson County, Leach never imagined he would reach such great heights as an athlete. His latest accolade came in September, when he became the youngest person to be inducted into the East Carolina University Athletics Hall of Fame.
It’s yet another award that motivates him to keep investing his time into kids in the county with the annual camp.
“Being in the (ECU) Hall of Fame is a great honor. Growing up I never thought it would happen to me,” Leach said. “I’m humbled. I just want the kids to have fun (at camp), enjoy themselves, and see that regular people can do great things.”
Visit VontaLeach.com for information and registration.