"If you have a dream in life, never be afraid to chase it," Mohamed Sanu told 40 kids in first through eighth grades on Saturday afternoon at his football camp in North Brunswick, New Jersey. "If somebody ever tells you, you can't do something, don't let them do that."
The football camp was an inaugural event for Sanu's Crew, which is raising money for South Brunswick's Police Athletic League and Embrace Kids Foundation, an organization helping underprivileged kids with serious health challenges.
Through heavy rain and wind, Sanu coached, went through drills and played with the 40 children with the help of NFL players Tim Wright and Nick Williams, as well as some friends including Andrew Opoku who attended the Ravens' minicamp and is currently a free agent.
"I was in their shoes," Sanu told me after the event. "And you gotta follow your dream, whatever your dream is, to be a doctor, lawyer, firefighter, policeman, just chase that dream and don't let anyone say you can't do that."
After more than three hours out on the football field, Sanu and the other camp coaches spoke to the students to give them words of advice. Wright, who was a member of the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots last season (and who was wearing his Super Bowl ring) spoke to the students about his high school days playing football with Sanu, as well as their time together at Rutgers. Wright shared a fun fact: he cut Sanu's hair for four years. This year, Wright will be playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who he also played for in 2013.
The advice Wright gave to the students was about perseverance. "You gotta roll with the punches and remember why you do things."
Williams' advice followed a similar message. "Work as hard as you can, believe in what you're doing. A lot of us have been through adversity, but if you believe in yourselves and each other and believe in your dreams, you can do whatever you want in life."
Opaku may have the least NFL experience, but he shared the message that got the most laughs from the camp attendees, as well as his fellow coaches. "Make sure you eat. Eat your vegetables."
Later on, Sanu admitted he was never a fan of vegetables.
During the event I spoke with many of Sanu's high school friends who all had only great things to say about their long-time friend. "I think he's a really giving person and if he can help someone out he will and I think that's exactly what he's doing here, what he's always done, give a hand when a hand is needed," Sean Tyree said of his friend Mohamed Sanu. "Coming up through high school we were both very into athletics, I played soccer, he played football, and everyday in the cafeteria that was what the conversation was, how to get closer to that dream and it's always been that same conversation, how to get closer to it and how to work harder."
Sanu has also converted quite a few Giants fans into Bengals die hards. "I started out as a Giants fan and I was like let's see what happens when they play each other, and I found myself routing for the Bengals even when I didn't think I would be. And now I'm a stone cold who dey Bengals fan."
Williams also shared some memories about Sanu and their college days in the Big East playing against each other when Williams was at UConn. "They beat us more than we beat them," he said. Williams was glad to be taking part in the Sanus Crew football camp and giving back to the community, which he says he tries to do as much as he can.
The event raised more than $3,000, which will go to a worthy cause.
"It's all about the kids," Sanu said. "That's what this is about, giving back to youth because they're the future."