Ex-Canes Unite for Good Deed

As a youngster growing up in Miami Beach, Duane Starks remembers hearing the same words over and over. "When I was kid dreaming of playing professional football we had guys like (former UM players) Mel Bratton and Mike Irvin coming out all the time to remind us how important it is to get an education," said Starks, currently with the Arizona Cardinals and a former star at the University of Miami.

"I remember they always said only one in a million make it. I'm in a position that I can give back and that's all we're trying to do."

Starks, along with a host of his NFL cohorts, did just that Saturday afternoon at the NFL Youth Education Center in Liberty City as he hosted over 400 kids in a football clinic, sponsored by the Duane Starks Charitable Foundation. The event was part of the 'Make It Out' Celebrity Weekend which included a golf tournament and beach party.

Former Hurricanes' players Warren Sapp, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James and Vernon Carey assisted Starks in leading the groups of kids ages 5-15 through catching, passing and kicking drills as parents snapped up pictures and music blared from speakers. Before heading out to the field the players also talked to the youths about staying in school and having in impact in society.

An autograph session was also held as part of the event.

"This is what it's all about," said Sapp, who handed out autographed Oakland Raiders' paper helmets. "Anytime you can reach out and have an impact with kids it's special. I know a lot of them look up to us so being here was important."

Eight-year-old Anthony Thompson had a little trouble staying on his feet during the drills. But Thompson obviously enjoyed being around some of his favorite players.

"It was cool to be around them," said Thompson. "One day I want to be in the NFL."

As if that wasn't enough six scholarships - at $1500 apiece - were handed out to students through Starks' foundation. Each recipient was selected after writing an essay on why he/she should be rewarded. Among the winners was Miami High senior Kristina Gonzalez.

"This means the world to me," said Gonzalez, who is headed to the University of Florida. "I really need all the help I can get."

Starks, who came up with the idea of creating a scholarship through the foundation six years ago, is glad he's in a position to give back.

"It makes me feel good knowing that we're helping some of the kids in our community take that next step," he said.

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