Steve Sanders knew he had to get involved.
Standing near a ball security drill run by the game's next generation of participants, the former Browns receiver and Cleveland native watched Glenville High School football players test local youths' ball-carrying ability. They swiped at the football as the younger players stepped over bags before meeting two Tarblooders holding blocking shields. Sanders wanted in.
The former Cleveland East High School standout moved from his point of observation to the front of the line, and all involved in the drill shouted with excitement. A former NFLer was about to test his mettle nearly a decade after he last played -- and theirs too.
Sanders took the handoff, ran through the bags and attempted to plow through the blocking shields while he was swarmed by nearly everyone at the station. He ran through it successfully, but lost the ball -- and his hat.
No worries. He was again just a Cleveland kid, giving back to the next group with high-level aspirations much like himself.
"Honestly, I still see myself as a little kid out here," Sanders said. "I grew up in Cleveland, born and raised and from a community similar to this. It was just one community over. Being able to be out here with these young guys, it's just kind of being a role model, showing them that you can make it but you can also come back to your community and help out, too.
"Cleveland is home. Ever since I was this age, six, seven years old, I wanted to play for the Browns. That was my dream. That dream came true and I got that opportunity. For me, Cleveland is always going to be home and the Browns are always going to be not only my favorite organization but the organization I started my career at. They gave me that opportunity so the least I could do is come out here and help with the LEGENDS camp."
Sanders was one of three Browns alumni who instructed youth football players Tuesday at Robert "Bump" Taylor Field in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood as part of the Browns' seventh and final LEGENDS Clinic of the summer. The free youth football clinics were hosted by the Browns on Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Lorain, and Start High School youth football fields throughout the summer and presented by Medical Mutual in association with College Advantage.
Every clinic was held on a field that was part of the Browns' synthetic turf fields project, which contributed five new fields to CMSD schools and a total of nine institutions, with Akron's Ellet High School becoming the latest to receive funding for a new surface.
The Cleveland Browns hosted the seventh and final LEGENDS Clinic at Bump Taylor Field on Tuesday.
As youth players trotted between eight stations on the new field, Sanders also floated to and from each drill. He spent time instructing kids on the basics of bump and run coverage, high-pointing a pass, hanging onto the ball and tackling with proper form. The reason: He too was once an aspiring athlete with big dreams who just needed some inspiration from a local hero.
"You can't quantify the impact on these young kids, because you'll see 10, 20 years from now the impact," Sanders explained. "It's gonna be a great impact, I believe, because I remember a guy by the name of Corey Fuller who played for the Browns when I was coming up. All he did was come out and donate some orange and white cleats to our football practice. Our colors were blue and gold but we wore those orange and white cleats the whole entire year, we had an exciting year and it was just one of those things where we got a chance to meet somebody who played at the highest level and cared enough to come out and just show his face to us and that was enough for us. Here I am, 20 years later still talking about that impact."
Sanders was joined by fellow Browns alumni Greg Pruitt and Cleo Miller, two former teammates and running backs who combined to appear in over 200 games from 1973-1981. Each spoke to the young athletes before the clinic began, emphasizing the importance of character, discipline and taking advantage of opportunities while they still exist. The two did that while in brown and orange, rushing for a combined total of 7,779 yards in their Browns careers.
Sanders' career was much shorter, but his memories made and lessons learned have served him well. He's spent the last four years as the metropolitan Cleveland directfor for Fellowship of Christian Athletes and also launched a nonprofit organization focused on inspiring, impacting and influencing student-athletes in 2013.
He did that Tuesday on the familiar east side of the city, thanks to the help of the Browns, Medical Mutual, College Advantage and Glenville High School.