10 Jan Memphis native Dontari Poe hosting local football camp
A year ago, when Dontari Poe decided to create his own nonprofit foundation, he knew he wanted to start it in Memphis, with a football camp for kids.
On Saturday, he and a handful of other NFL players will be back for round two.
The Memphis native and Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman will host his second annual All-Star Football Camp on Saturday morning at Wooddale High School through his foundation, Poe Man’s Dream. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., he will lead local children through a series of drills alongside Houston Texas safety and Memphis product Lonnie Ballentine, Chicago Bears defensive end Jaye Howard and others.
Last year’s camp brought in approximately 200 children, and Poe hopes Saturday’s event can be even better.
“We found out a lot of stuff that we can improve on,” Poe said in a phone interview last week. “It was good, and we plan on making it better.”
The annual football camp is just one of the charity events that Poe has hosted as part of his foundation over the past year. He also held a backpack drive later in the summer and donated turkeys to families before Thanksgiving, and plans to repeat both events again this year.
As a Memphis native and Wooddale graduate, the 26-year-old nose tackle always knew he wanted to give back to Memphis, first and foremost.
“I know the mindset, I know the mentality of people there,” he said. “Sometimes kids might not understand how much good they can get out of the city. A person like me coming around and just showing them the positivity (can help).”
“As long as I’m helping kids in some type of way, some type of positive way, I feel like I’m doing what I need to do with the foundation.”
As he continues to grow his foundation, Poe is also stepping into a new locker room when the Falcons begin organized team activities, more colloquially known as OTAs, on Tuesday. After five seasons and two Pro Bowl appearances with the Kansas City Chiefs, he entered free agency this winter and signed a one-year, $8-million contract with the Falcons in March.
Poe said he had a great conversation with Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who has a strong defensive background, during his visit to Atlanta. But ultimately, he said, there was one reason he signed with the reigning NFC champions: He wants to win.
“I feel like when the team wins, everybody on the team gets better,” Poe said. “So as long as I was around a team that had the possibility of winning, that I could come in and help them get to where they needed to be, I felt like that was all I needed.”
As Poe prepares for his sixth NFL season, with his second NFL franchise, he has never lost sight of his roots in Memphis. When asked about fellow former Tiger DeAngelo Williams’ recent comments about the university teaching him “how to grind,” Poe said he agreed.
“I feel like there’s some truth to that, because going into Memphis, you’re kind of the underdog at all times,” Poe said. “You’re not going to one of these major schools like an Alabama or something like that, so it’s just a constant grind. It’s a grind to try to reach the top.
“So I think it did teach me a lot, but at the same time, at some point, it was just on me, too. Just knowing what I had to do to get to where I wanted to go.”