10 Jan Ex-Tiger Dontari Poe gives back to Wooddale with free camp
Eight years after graduating from Wooddale High School, Dontari Poe was back at his alma mater Saturday morning, strolling across the football field that he knows so well, where his path to the NFL began.
It was important to Poe, a former Memphis defensive lineman who now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, to start here. When he launched his nonprofit foundation, Poe Man’s Dream, he wanted the first event to be in his neighborhood, in his city.
“Home is where the heart is,” Poe said. “I know what these people are going through. I know how everyday life is, because I was just here. I just went to this school (and) graduated in 2008. So I know what it’s about.”
Poe hosted a free football camp for approximately 200 local children at Wooddale on Saturday through his new nonprofit, which aims to support underserved middle-school and high-school students in Memphis and Kansas City. The 25-year-old had long been thinking about ways to give back and started working to turn his idea for a foundation into reality over the past year.
“Ever since I got to the NFL, I wanted to help out kids, kids coming from the same place I came from. I always wanted to do that,” Poe said. “We started talking about it the end of last season, and it just came to fruition this summer.”
Poe was a two-star recruit coming out of high school and was largely overlooked at Memphis, as the Tigers won just five games in the three years he was on the field. He shot up draft boards after an impressive showing at the NFL combine and has since gone on to make the Pro Bowl in two of his four seasons with the Chiefs.
Over that same time frame, Memphis’ football program has experienced a similar rise, winning a program-record 19 games over the past two years. Though Poe was disappointed to see coach Justin Fuente leave for Virginia Tech, he said he’s loved watching the program grow from afar.
“When I was there, it wasn’t nowhere near like it is now,” he said. “I’m sideways about coach leaving, but at the same time, that’s what you do. You do good, you get motivated and you move up. It is what it is. But I feel like the new coach will do just as good. I feel like they’ve got a whole new mindset up there. I feel like it’s totally different. I think they’ll be all right.”
As the Tigers try to maintain their recent success, Poe may soon be trying to sack another former Memphis star in the NFL: Quarterback Paxton Lynch was recently drafted by the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs’ AFC Western Division rival.
“It’s cool,” Poe said with a smile. “I mean, he’s my boy, but at the same time he’s going to have to understand that business is business.”
In the meantime, Poe is excited about continuing to expand the reach of Poe Man’s Dream. He plans to orchestrate a backpack drive for local children later this summer and donate turkeys to families on Thanksgiving, while working his way up to larger and more intricate events.
“This is just a starting point,” he said. “The more people I can touch around here, the more it’ll spread and the bigger it’ll get.”
For more information on Poe’s foundation, visit poemansdream.org.