By Peter Schwartz
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Who says you can’t go home again?
Growing up in the Bronx, Chris Canty had a dream of making it to the NFL. He was taken by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, but the highlight of his career came during a four-year run with the Giants: the win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Donny Brady grew up in Bellmore, Long Island, and was a star defensive back at Mepham High School. After two seasons at Nassau Community College, Brady went on to the University of Wisconsin before a nine-year professional career that included time in the CFL as well as three seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.
Not forgetting where they came from, both Canty and Brady served as guest instructors Tuesday night at the Big Daddy Youth Football Camp on Long Island. They ran drills, taught the kids the proper techniques and also spoke to the kids, sharing their life experiences.
“I love it,” said Canty, who is currently an free agent. “I love the opportunity to combine two of my passions, which is working with young people and football. It’s an awesome opportunity to take the skill set that I have and apply it to the next generation.”
Brady is retired from professional football but still has the passion to be around the game. He runs his own athletic training company on Long Island, but when the opportunity came up to help teach the game that he loves to kids, he jumped at the chance.
He was more than happy to help kids that are getting an opportunity that he didn’t experience.
“I was never at a camp when I was little,” said Brady, a two-time Grey Cup winner in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimos. “I always wanted to be that person looking at a person that made it to that level, so it’s just great to give back and be a part of it.”
The noncontact camp for kids ages 6 to 18 focuses on fundamentals of the game, but the former and current NFL coaches and players that serve as guest instructors also speak to the kids as a group and share some words of wisdom.
Canty’s message to the kids was to focus on the task at hand and pay attention.
“When you have an opportunity to learn, take advantage of it,” said Canty, who now lives in New Jersey. “Whether it’s the classroom or the football field, just take the time to listen. When you’re talking, you’re only repeating something that you already know. When you listen, you have a chance to learn something you didn’t know.”
In the three years that the camp has been in existence, no other guest instructors had as much undivided attention from the campers as Canty and Brady. Their passionate words and valuable life lessons resonated with the kids. In fact, Brady told them to stop playing video games, put down their phones and go out and play ball.
He also told the kids to keep things simple on the field.
“Just pay attention to what the coaches are saying and just work on the fundamentals of the game,” said Brady. “Don’t worry about what you see on television. Just worry about the basics. It all starts with the fundamentals.”
Many of the kids at the camp were Giants fans, so they were excited to learn from and listen to a player that suited up for their favorite team. Canty will always be revered by Giants fans because he was part of a team that hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
He’ll always cherish the four seasons he spent with Big Blue.
“It was an awesome time,” said Canty. “I had an opportunity to win a championship in my hometown. I had a chance to play for a future Hall of Fame coach in Tom Coughlin. It was an honor and a privilege, and I’m proud to have been associated with that franchise.”
Canty has had some dialogue with teams, but if things don’t work out and he decides to retire, he’ll transition into a broadcasting career.
Being a part of the Big Daddy Youth Football Camp was extra special for Brady because it takes place at the Mitchel Field Athletic Complex, the home field for the Nassau Community College Football team that he played for.
“It brought back all the memories of me when I was 18 and 19 years old,” said Brady, who won a Rose Bowl with the Wisconsin Badgers. “I lost one game in two years (with NCC). It was just a thrill. I never thought that I would have this opportunity to be back on this field and coaching these kids, so it’s a dream come true for me.”
For many of the kids at the camp, the dream is to play in the NFL. While many of the guest instructors point out that not everyone can make it to the highest level, having NFL players such as Canty and Brady lending their experience and knowledge is the thrill of a lifetime for kids who love football.
The Big Daddy Youth Football Camp concludes Wednesday at the Mitchell Field Athletic Complex. Guest instructors expected to be on hand include former Jets fullback Tony Richardson, current Giants defensive end Kerry Wynn and defensive tackle Jay Bromley, former Jets quarterback Neil O’Donnell and current Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
For more information, visit BigDaddyFootball.com.