The man they call “Anytime” certainly still has some tread left on the tires.
As a wide receiver and kick returner for the Atlanta Falcons a season ago, Devin Hester scored four touchdowns and compiled 1,908 all-purpose yards.
Still, at age 32 and set to begin his 10th season in the NFL, the Windermere resident has given some attention to the future and says he has a pretty good idea of what he wants life after football to look like — and he wants it to look a lot like this past Saturday morning in West Orange, when his Devin Hester Foundation hosted a free clinic at Olympia High School that saw more than 600 area youths in attendance.
“My vision is, this is kind of what I plan to do once I’m done with football,” Hester said. “Eventually I’d like to put a Boys & Girls Club in the middle of this area, where people in Winter Garden and on the outskirts (of greater Orlando) can get involved and have access.”
Hester, who rounded up several of his NFL friends — players past and present — to come out on Saturday and work with the groups of youths on football drills and technique, didn’t develop his passion for being involved with kids out of no where. The South Florida native and former Chicago Bear was involved with the Boys & Girls Club as a youth and credits mentors from the program like Demetrius Thompson as pivotal in helping to shape the man he became, teaching him values and how to conduct himself both on and off the field.
Hester settled in Windermere with his wife and kids nearly three years ago and says his residency in Central Florida has been everything he has hoped for so far.
“It’s just a more friendly environment — there’s a lot of things to do with the kids and better schools,” Hester said, explaining why he chose Windermere and the Orlando area over some of the other locales his career has taken him. “It’s just a new environment.”
As a way to give back and plant roots in his new hometown, Hester hopes this camp is the first of many and that his vision of having his own club will one day become a reality. And, for Olympia High head coach Kyle Hayes — whose players volunteered on Saturday and helped Hester run his clinic — there is certainly no downside to having a well-known NFL star plant roots in his program’s neighborhood.
“This is awesome — it’s great for our kids to see that football players do more than just catch the ball and run and score touchdowns,” Hayes said. “They do give back to the community.”
Through the support of the event’s various sponsors, Hester’s clinic on Saturday was free and youths from around the area were bussed in. And, while there is plenty of hard work to be done as he prepares for another go-round with the Falcons this fall, there is the hope that Saturday’s event was just the beginning of things to come here in West Orange.
“It’s very rewarding when you see how many kids come out — especially when it’s the first camp,” Hester said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].