Good Will Hunt

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Strong, talented and athletic are all words that, at one time or another, have been used by teammates, coaches, media and others to describe Packers defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt.

Terms like charitable, community-oriented and generous can also be used to describe Hunt and, though equally as fitting, are less frequently utilized. Just emerging as a prominent figure for the Packers defense, Hunt has long been a fixture in community service work.

"Some guys have agents call or there's a lot of media to publicize their events," Hunt said. "For me, I don't care if anyone reports it - it just makes me feel good to have kids around and do something helpful for them."

In 2001, the Memphis native created the Cletidus Hunt Foundation, designed to help children improve education. Having just finished up his second NFL campaign, Hunt was anxious to share what he had learned with others. Hunt said he established his foundation for the sole purpose of providing guidance to kids from the troubled area he grew up in.

"I just wanted something positive for kids," Hunt said. "They're growing up so fast and getting in trouble where I'm from. It doesn't hurt to give them something else to do during the summer time. It gives them a chance to develop some aspirations, instead of just sitting around waiting for something to do.

"Now, there are a lot of pros from Memphis and I inspired them to join me."

Hunt's most recent outlet for sharing lessons with children is the 'Reach Back 2 Give Football Camp.' The inaugural camp was held this past summer and focused on teaching kids the fundamentals of football, with all participants gaining experience on offense and defense.

Hunt said he got the idea from going to other players' camps from around the league. Seeing what other players were doing motivated him to become the first Memphis professional in his peer group to give back to the community.

The only professional athlete he came in contact with as a youth was NFL-great Reggie White, who visited his high school team during Hunt's junior year. White, then playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, was a big inspiration to many in the area. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., attended the University of Tennessee and played the first 20 games of his professional career with the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League. White not only dominated as a football player, but gave, and still gives, a tremendous amount of time and financial help to those in need, particularly children.

"At the time, it was shocking. He gave us an energy rush," Hunt said. "He came out and spoke with us and worked with us and put a lot of inspiration in us. He wasn't in Green Bay yet, but when he got there, I had the pleasure of saying I knew him."

Hunt admitted that he didn't instantly think of mirroring White in terms of both his play and his community involvement. When White visited, Hunt wasn't even sure he was going to play college ball. His football career didn't start until he was a prep sophomore. It wasn't until his senior year at Whitehaven High School, when he started to make his recruiting visits, that he realized he wanted to play collegiately.

Despite being named Mississippi's 4A 'Defensive Player of the Year' as a high school senior, Hunt's professional ambitions didn't surface until his sophomore year at North West Mississippi Junior College. Determined to progress to the next level of football competition, Hunt learned how to appropriately divide time between studying, football and outside activities.

Now, Hunt tries to help kids learn how to set goals and to achieve them. During his recent camp, Hunt got a chance to have some group sessions with the children, stressing how important it is to have balance in life

"I told them to go to college and have fun, but to take care of their business first," Hunt said. "The kids had fun sitting there listening. It was hot, but I had a ball. There were over 200 kids out there and I got a chance to work with all of them."

Hunt had plenty of help from players around the league who served as camp counselors. Some of his instructors included Reggie Howard (Dolphins), Jerome Woods (Chiefs), Marcus Bell (Lions) and Andre Lott (Redskins), all pro players with Memphis roots. Najeh Davenport, Kenny Peterson and Chukie Nwokorie also came out to assist their Packers teammate, in addition to a slew of area prep coaches and Arena League players who out to volunteer their time. The large group of players and coaches were more than able to provide the young players with gridiron and life knowledge.

"We talk to them about how to get into the NFL, what to do and what not to do, taking care of school," Hunt said. "We try to tell them about things that will help prepare them for real life."

Hunt was surprised by the large number of e-mails and face-to-face gratitude he received. In addition to the parents and relatives of the children, many people in the neighborhood without children came to watch the camp as casual observers.

"People said, 'You had the camp set up so professionally and the kids loved it,''' Hunt said. "I told them it would be better next year and they said, 'Better? It couldn't be any better.'"

However, Hunt believes it can. He doesn't think one weekend was enough time to teach the campers all that he and his colleagues have to offer, so he plans to expand the camp to a month of weekends. He would also like to start a similar annual camp in Wisconsin. Aside from camps, Hunt also hopes to assist other kids of older age groups, by improving the places where they practice and play.

He and other Memphis natives currently playing in the league, plan to help out their high school alma maters. The plan is for the group to pick a different pro's former high school every year and, collectively, raise the funds to improve its athletic facilities.

"We pick a high school that needs to be renovated," Hunt said. "Then we try to get some things done to it. We'll renovate the stadium, get a new weight room or whatever needs to be done to it. It's not going to be a one man effort. It's a team thing."

Other than group projects, Hunt has also done a lot of work on his own. He routinely speaks to school groups of all ages in Memphis. He speaks to them about his experiences and how he was able to succeed. His mantra is simple: "Keep a level head and follow your dreams," said Hunt.

Community service is not just something Hunt does to pass time in the offseason. Especially over the past couple of seasons, Cletidus has worked with the Packers community relations department on a multitude of projects.

In 2002, he took part in the NFL-sponsored Hometown Huddle project, doing landscaping work for the House of Hope, a local home for teen moms.

"We got a chance to help renovate some of the property," Hunt said. "We also talked to some of the young women there and gave them some hope and motivation. They enjoyed having us there because we told them that it's not the end of the road for them just because they had children at a young age."

Last season, Hunt took part in events for The Salvation Army, Campbell's Chunky Soup and the March of Dimes. He periodically meets with Cathy Dworak, Packers manager of community relations, to discuss ways that he can become more involved in community events.

Over a decade has past since Reggie White stepped onto that football practice field at Whitehaven High School, yet it is a memory that has stuck with Hunt. White will almost certainly be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday and has brought happiness to many people through his service to several communities.

Whatever mark Cletidus Hunt leaves on the game of professional football, he will undoubtedly be remembered by those whose lives he tried to make better.

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