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McKelvin, friends reach out to youths

It was a nice change of pace for some of the students from the Renaissance Campus on Saturday morning.

Chris, an 18-year-old Renaissance student from Olean, remembers not being able to leave the Western New York residential drug rehabilitation center over the winter. But being able to meet and train with five Buffalo Bills quickly brought a smile to his face.

"I wanted to get into football when I was younger, but I never did," Chris said. "Now it's pretty cool to learn the basic stuff, and maybe now I'll get into football more. Especially running back, I like that."

For the third straight year, Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin held a fundamental football camp for Kids Escaping Drugs and brought some of his friends with him. Bills receivers Paul Hubbard, Naaman Roosevelt, Marcus Easley and safety Jairus Byrd joined McKelvin and helped guide about 90 kids through basic drills on the practice fields at Lancaster High School.

McKelvin, a native of Waycross, Ga., reached out to KED after his rookie season in 2008 and has funded the event ever since. This year's participants all received T-shirts, TapouT mouth guards and lunch, all paid for by McKelvin.

"It's not that I feel sorry for them or anything like that," McKelvin said of the Renaissance students. "I look up to them; I really do. They are going through a hard time right now. I feel like if I came out here and reached out to them then I could just show them that it's not over, they can still be somebody."

One-fourth of the students in attendance were from the Renaissance Campus, with athletes from Lancaster High School making up the rest of the group. The kids were split into separate positional groups, each with a Bills player as coach.

Roosevelt, a graduate of St. Joe's, went back to his high school quarterbacking days for the camp, coaching the quarterbacks and working on footwork. Roosevelt said that he was unable to attend the event last year, and couldn't resist when he got a call from McKelvin two weeks ago.

At the end of the camp, both Roosevelt and McKelvin spoke to the group. Roosevelt is five years removed from high school and was intrigued by his moment as a mentor.

"It's kind of crazy," Roosevelt said. "I still feel like I'm a kid myself, it doesn't even feel like I'm older when I talk to them. I just wanted to give back to them stuff that I learned and stuff that I went through."

The event isn't the only youth camp that McKelvin has been involved with lately. Last week he was in Alabama working at Bills defensive end Spencer Johnson's camp.

McKelvin said he spent some time training in Atlanta with teammates. He also said he has been spending a lot of time with his family during the NFL lockout.

"We have a lot more free time with not being around the coaches and things like that," McKelvin said. "Basically, I've just been working on my craft. I'm a very family oriented person; I like being around my family. It just gives me more time to enjoy myself and be around them. "

e-mail: rmarfurt@buffnews.com