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Quintus McDonald wasn’t expecting the phone call. Or, for that matter, good news. He didn’t have a job. He was about to lose his house in Indianapolis. He was struggling, again, with the “chemical dependency” – he always uses that phrase – that had prevented him from reaching his full potential at Penn State, in the NFL, in his life.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Montclair Times
Judging from some of the energetic games going on at Glenfield Park, there appear to be some standout athletes participating in the first week of the Montclair Junior Sports Academy. But the on-court excellence is only half of the story with this group of 14 boys and girls, most from Montclair.
The Sports Academy, running for the second straight year in town, is operated by Montclair High School alum and ex-NFL player Quintus McDonald and runs this week and next. It combines athletic competition with educational instruction designed to help these young athletes become well-rounded adults.
McDonald, a high school All-American linebacker for the Mounties in the mid-80s, had a successful college career as a linebacker at Penn State University before going on to play 40 games for the Indianapolis Colts from 1989 to 1991. But his career was cut short by a shoulder injury, and he has battled drug and alcohol addiction since retiring from football.
In recent years, McDonald has turned his life around, and while he now lives in Durham, N.C., he started the Junior Sports Academy in Montclair with a dedicated mission to give back to the town where he was a scholastic star. He and his coaches work to ensure that his campers, many of whom are in third and fourth grade or younger, have a proper foundation of character, with hopes of turning kids away from the self-destructive life he once led.
"When you have chinks in your character, it doesn't matter how great an athlete you are," said McDonald, a devout Christian who says the inspiration for the academy came from a higher power. "It will go to waste. We're working on building the inner man from the start.
"Thank God I never wound up in prison, but I could have certainly wound up there. I've put myself precarious situations, and God kept me here. God saw fit for me not to end up in prison, and I want to do my best to ensure these children never end up there either. That's why I'm still here."
On a warm August Monday morning, the academy's 14 kids, most from Montclair, have energy to spare.
Their day begins at 9 a.m. with hours of athletic competition; on this day, it includes basketball drills leading up to an intense game of "knockout" testing the players' jump-shooting skills. The camp also offers instruction in track –Montclair High School girls track head coach Sophia Wallace is one of the three coaches working on drills, along with brother Gary Wallace and Jon Arnold, both excellent athletes in their own right –as well as flag football. The coaches continually stress sportsmanship and tough, fair competition.
After a short lunch break, the group walks over to the youth center at the Bright Hope Baptist Church on nearby Mission Street, where they'll have three hours of classroom learning. McDonald touts the academy's three-pronged curriculum as necessary and beneficial.
There's a character education component, with the children discussing and thinking about integrity, caring and forgiveness with each other. Next is an English component, which includes instruction in storytelling, public speaking and creative thought processes. Finally, there's an art component, which allows the campers to express themselves in a form other than words.
"We tell them in the morning, we'll have our fun and do our games," Sophia Wallace said. "And then after lunch, we have class. They understand, they get right in line and get to going. They really seem to enjoy the art portion, but watching them write today, there are some very good writers here. It gives them a chance to stretch out those skills they maybe haven't used since school ended."
After three hours of instruction and discussion, it's back out to Glenfield Park for one last hour of athletics.
"It's productive," said Alina Brown, who has three boys enrolled in the camp, including Asani, 5, the youngest of the campers. "It keeps them active and healthy, and they stay out of trouble."
Registration for Week 2, next Monday through Friday (August 27-31), is still underway. For more information, go to www.quintusmcdonald.com.
In-person registration will also take place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation at 228 Bloomfield Ave. Volunteer helpers are always welcome, McDonald said.
Many of the students attending the camp this week were able to attend by receiving scholarships from local businesses and groups partnering with McDonald. Among the sponsors providing money for scholarships are Ceasar's Jewelers, Universal Republic Records, Hill Publishing, the Montclair Fund For Educational Excellence, the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation, Rock Your Body By VI, Maria Evans Egan, The Timeout Guys, Mahir's Unisex Barbers, VillageConnectors.com, S.O.F.I.A, Pit Stop Express Lube and the Election Fund for Brendan Gill.
"It's a camp that's affordable for all," said Diane Anglin, who joined with McDonald this year to assist while her son and niece participate in the camp. "The coaches here have all played sports at a high level, so they're training the kids correctly. And to take this time to talk to kids and have these young kids learn, they'll carry that back with them."
Contact Kevin Meacham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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STAFF PHOTO BY KEVIN MEACHAM
Asani Brown, 5, gets a lift during a game of knockout at the Montclair Junior Sports Academy Monday at Glenfield Park. By Kevin Meacham
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