Rick Sanford played college and professional football in front of thousands at Williams-Brice Stadium and Foxboro Stadium, but his footballing life began as a barefoot kid running across a dusty field behind the Rock Hill YMCA.
Sanford, who went on to play at Northwestern High School, University of South Carolina, and for seven years in the NFL, was placed in the offensive guard position during his first training with the Sylvia Circle Spiders in 1963. Sanford didn’t feel it and told his mother, Mary, after he wouldn’t go back, that he didn’t like football.
“She looked at me and she said, ‘you’ll be here tomorrow’,” Sanford said with a laugh. “I always give my mother credit for saving my football career.”
The Sanford youth football jersey will be retired on June 15 at the Sylvia Circle football pitch during the eighth annual Sylvia Circle Demons football and cheerleading camp. Fellow Gamecock and Rock Hill football legend Stephon Gilmore will take off his junior football jersey the next day, Saturday June 16.
In the next training, after the end of Sanford’s fledgling football career, team coaches Ralph Mauney and Harry Isom subjected the children to running drills and after seeing Sanford’s quickness, made him back down.
“Life in the backfield was much more illustrious,” Sanford said last week. “Actually, you have to hold the soccer ball.”
Sanford and many of his teammates literally played barefoot football, almost unfathomable these days. But even as youth football has changed and uniforms and gear have improved, turning his kids into NFL players is still essential to Rock Hill’s success.
“That’s where it all started. It’s the fond memory of everything,” said Sanford. “It brings back such fond memories. Who can say that they played barefoot in a uniform?”
Sanford was the first Rock Hill product to have a long NFL career, from 1979 to 1985, and in some ways he paved the way for many in town to follow for professional football, including Gilmore.
“It’s such a cool thing,” said Sanford, who was an All-American in South Carolina and the school’s first NFL first-round draft pick in 1979. “It’s really an honor. so distinct, especially in a city where you run this type of players over and over again. “
Sanford and Gilmore join seven others who have removed youth soccer jerseys from the YMCA. Six are former or current NFL players – Jadeveon Clowney, Chris Hope, Benjamin Watson, Gerald Dixon, Johnathan Joseph and Jeff Burris – and the seventh was an 8-year-old former junior football player who tragically died on the bus Ramah juco. accident, Darice Lamont Hicks Jr.
The camp, which is free, runs from Thursday June 14 through Saturday June 16, culminating in a 7v7 tournament. Call 803-372-8929 for more information, or visit the Sylvia Circle Demons Facebook page. The Clowney HIT Foundation and the Rock Hill YMCA are sponsoring the three-day event.
Demons Camp to Double as Youth Shrine Bowl Combine
The Demons Camp will also be one of the final Youth Shrine Bowl combos of the year.
The event is very similar to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, the country’s longest-running all-star high school football game played every December in Spartanburg. Proceeds from this game will help the Shriner Hospital in Greenville, SC, which treats burned children.
Perry Sutton, a longtime mainstay of the Demons program, is now the South Carolina director for the Youth Shrine Bowl. He looked aside the game’s first year, but an experience convinced him to take on a bigger role.
“What really touched me was when we went to the hospital and saw the amazing things the Shriners do in the hospital, how they don’t charge people,” Sutton said. . “We can use football to help take care of this and I just jumped at the chance.”
The Youth Shrine Bowl, in its third year, features separate games for sixth, seventh and eighth graders that will be played at the Matthews Sportsplex in late December 2018.
During Demons Camp Thursday and Friday (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.), Youth Shrine Bowl scouts will examine the talents on display. Kids will be measured and then take part in several combine drills, including the 40-yard dash. The teams will be selected in Charleston at the end of June.
This story was originally published June 11, 2018 11:12 a.m.