2009 Gadsden City High School graduate and current Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick addresses local youths at the conclusion of his 5th Annual 21 Kids Football Camp. Standing to Kirkpatrick’s right is Cincinnati Bengals recevier A.J. Green and standing to his right is Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.
By Chris McCarthy
Dre Kirkpatrick was quick to give credit where credit was due for the mostly sunny weather last Saturday (June 24) during his 5th Annual 21 Kids Football Camp at Gadsden City High School’s Titan Stadium.
“God led the way,” said the 2009 GCHS graduate, former University of Alabama standout and current Cincinnati Bengals cornerback. “We were ready to take everything into the gym, but the skies cleared up just in time so we could use the football field.”
Three hundred campers participated in the event, which featured various skill-based drills.
Kirkpatrick, who was raised in Oakley Estates and attended Emma Sansom High School through his freshman year, spoke of the importance of providing area youths with positive role models
“I’m at a loss for words for how much that means to me. When I was growing up, I didn’t have this opportunity, so I wanted to make sure that I gave back to my community, because I feel like I’m a part of Gadsden. At the end of the day, I feel that I’m starting a new tradition.”
Saturday’s camp featured a couple of special guest instructors in Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.
“I’m truly blessed for these two guys to come out here and help make this day possible,” said Kirkpatrick. “Antonio had a lot of flight delays getting out here, and I appreciate him making such an effort. For these guys to come to my hometown when they’re supposed to be training somewhere else really shows you what kind of people they are.”
A three-year starter at cornerback for the Titans, Kirkpatrick finished his high school career with 193 tackles, 17 interceptions (including three returned for a touchdown) and 36 pass breakups. He was a first-team All-State selection his junior and senior seasons and was named Class 6A Back of the Year following his senior year. He participated in the 2008 Alabama Mississippi All-Star Football Classic and the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
As a five-star recruit, Kirkpatrick fielded scholarship offers from Alabama, Texas, Florida, LSU, Southern Cal-ifornia, Miami (Fla.), Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee and Michigan before choosing the Crimson Tide. While at UA, Kirkpatrick was a part of BCS national championship teams in 2009 and 2011 and was a second-team All-SEC pick in 2010 and 2011.
A first round pick of the Bengals in the 2012 NFL draft, Kirkpatrick has started the past two years at cornerback. This past season he finished with 46 tackles, three interceptions and 10 pass breakups.
Kirkpatrick isn’t just paying lip service when he says he wants to give back to his hometown. He began his non-profit 21 Kids Foundation for Gadsden area youth shortly after he signed his first NFL contract in 2012. According to the foundation’s website, its goals are to improve public health, promote educational opportunities, enhance community development efforts, create and sustain a healthy environment for the mental health community and assist youth in improving academically and athletically.
“Right now we’re looking for a building in Gadsden so we can start working on some things around the city,” he said. “We want to get these kids more active and let them know that we’re behind them. Even when I’m done playing ball, I still want to give back to the community.”