Through Football, Ricky Sapp Found His Purpose — Supporting Kids in His Community
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
Ricky Sapp knew from the day he was drafted that he would give back.
The linebacker knew he had a mission in life — he just wasn’t sure what it was until he reached the NFL.
“I always enjoyed giving back to the community,’’ Sapp said. “It wasn’t until later in life that I realized my purpose was to work with kids.’’
Sapp started the Ricky Sapp Foundation in 2010, the same year he was drafted out of Clemson University by the Philadelphia Eagles. Sapp kept his foundation going through his years with the New York Jets and Houston Texas, and now that his playing days are over, he spends even more time doing what he says he was meant to do.
“What the foundation does is it empowers kids, encourages kids,’’ Sapp said.
Sapp grew up in Bamberg, S.C., the same town that produced former baseball star Mookie Wilson and former South Carolina governor and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley. He said his experiences growing up helped shape his foundation's mission.
“I got kicked out of school in eighth grade," Sapp said. "I had so many coaches and teachers who helped me get back. Now it’s my turn. I want to help the kids who need my help."
Sapp runs a free football and cheerleader camp every summer in Bamberg for the town’s youth. The camp has attracted between 100 and 150 students in years past and has grown every year since its inception. He also hosts an annual Celebrity Basketball Game, with all the proceeds going back to the community.
In Sapp's adopted home of Myrtle Beach, he runs back to school projects, providing free backpacks and school accessories to those in need. He also holds Thanksgiving and Christmas giveaways for families in need in both cities.
In what’s left of his spare time, Sapp coaches the defense at St. James High School in Surfside, S.C., just south of Myrtle Beach. He is also an independent sports performance trainer at The X Gym in Myrtle Beach and gives motivational speeches to high school students across the state.
“I figured out my purpose in life was kids," Sapp said. “I’ve been doing things right from the time I was drafted, but there’s more energy and passion for it now. I have the opportunity to be more hands-on now that I’m not playing.
“Kids today — they have the power and authority to change the world."
Sapp began playing football on the Pop Warner level as a youth in Bamberg. “I was about nine or 10 and saw my friends playing and I wanted to play,’’ Sapp said. “And the rest, as they say, is history."
As a high school player, he played at Bamberg-Ernhardt High School. He earned All-State honors, was rated the No. 1 prospect in South Carolina his senior year, and was a five-star recruit for Clemson.
Sapp says he learned important lessons on the youth fields in Bamberg — lessons he tries to get across to youth across the Palmetto State.
“It’s important for them to learn the game, but it’s also important for them to learn what it means to work together," Sapp said. "For a lot of kids, these coaches are the only leaders these kids see. I learned so much from my coaches, I really did. I still remember my youth coaches. That’s how important they were to me.’’
Photo Credit: AP/Brian Garfinkel
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