He’s not on the posters the Cardinals hand out – the ones he’s been autographing – to the kids. The former running back just wants to make sure the children have it straight, because they always are asking if he’s on the poster.
That’s just part of being alumni for the Cards, taking part in teaching youth players about the game. Those that take part aren’t players anymore, but they are close to it. The kids don’t care their careers are over. And for the players, it can be a trip back in time when they all get together.
“It’s similar to a homecoming,” former running back Damien Anderson said. “It’s almost like a family reunion. You see guys that have lived the same type of life you did, and we’re all making that transition.”
The Cardinals’ Football Skills and Education camp held May 14 featured 17 former Arizona Cardinals, including running backs Stump Mitchell and Marcel Shipp, cornerbacks David Macklin and Robert Tate, wide receivers Frank Sanders and MarTay Jenkins and offensive linemen Derek Kennard and Jerome Daniels.
While they are ex-players, it didn’t necessarily feel that way.
“It’s like we were in the locker room and never left,” said former safety Quentin Harris, now the Cards’ assistant director of pro personnel. “All the same jokes.”
Said one-time offensive lineman Rolando Cantu, who also works for the team as manager of international business ventures, “it felt like it was 2004 or 2005. You remember the old days.”
All have moved on from the game, save for Shipp, who continues to play in the United Football League, long after first making the Cards as an undrafted rookie in 2000.
“As a player you always keep that part tucked away in your heart, just in case someone might still want you,” Scobey said with a smile, “but the realistic part of it is that you are five years out of the game and you probably couldn’t run three plays if you had to.”
They still have the knowledge to pass on to up-and-coming players, however. The skills camp was for high school players, and while many don’t necessarily have memories of any of these players – the most recent any of them played with the Cardinals was 2006 – they were more than willing to listen to what the former Cards had to offer.
“We’re not the smallest guys and we tend to stick out,” Anderson said. “(Kids) gravitate toward you. But if you see a Frank Sanders, for instance, he’s bigger than life to a lot of people. It’s a great resource, knowing Marcel Shipp or Damien Anderson did it this way and made it to the NFL even though we were undrafted.
“Kids can say, ‘Something they did, it worked.’ ”
Plus, the kids see a little bit of the dynamic that football players have on the highest level. At one point, a young offensive lineman was dominating drills in one-on-one work so much that former Cardinals defensive end Michael Bankston wanted to step in and get a try.
Cantu, leading up the offensive linemen, cut that off, offering to take on Bankston himself – an echo of the same trash-talking offensive-line-versus-defensive-line battles seen in training camp.
“It’s fun to share time with them,” Cantu said.