The First Annual Ellington Elite Football Camp included more than 700 area youth football players; more than 70 camp coaches and counselors from the high school, college and NFL football ranks; and at the center of it all, the mother of two sons, Andre and Bruce, Olympia and Gwen Ellington.
Olympia and Gwen immediately conceded to a much higher authority when asked to describe the day.
The day, they said, was a blessing.
They are the First Moms of Berkeley Football, mothers of arguably the two best football players in Berkeley football history – certainly the most dynamic in recent memory, and either sister, cousin, aunt or in-law to a half dozen other Stag greats mentioned in any “Who’s Best?” debate.
Unofficially, the more than 700 area youth were all their children, at least for four hours on Friday, July 11, at Gerald Moody Field at Berkeley High School.
“The turnout was amazing,” said Olympia Ellington, mother of Andre and aunt to Bruce. “I am overwhelmed by the support that this camp has received from the school and the community. Not just the kids who showed up for the camp, but everyone in the community who chipped in to help.”
Her son Andre followed up stellar careers at Berkeley and Clemson to turn in a fine rookie season with the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL.
“This is a blessing that has completed the circle,” she said. “This makes up for all the hard times and hard work along the way, to see all these people out here and at the center of it is our two sons.
“It is truly a blessing.”
Gwen Ellington is the mother to Bruce and aunt to Andre.
“Bruce and Andre have been gone so much and it is a blessing to see them again,” she said. “But they came back last night and decided to stay in a hotel. I asked them, ‘What? Your momma’s house isn’t good enough for you anymore?’”
But Gwen was all smiles when Ashley Ellington, Bruce’s older brother, told her he had money for a homecooked meal.
“Ashley said they wanted us to cook dinner for them so we know they’ll be out,” she said. “They’ll always come home for one of momma’s homecooked meals. You don’t get that in any hotel.”
Both Gwen and Olympia have kept a close eye on their sons over the last eight years of their lives particularly when their football careers and education took them away from home and Moncks Corner.
“I’m watching Bruce and Andre play on TV and I texted them to let them know ‘I’m watching you,’ and they texted me back to say, ‘Yes momma, we know, we know,’” Gwen said.
Andre made headlines during the 2013 season for having a chunk of hair ripped away from his head during an attempted tackle.
“We’re going to make that into a commercial,” Olympia laughed, referencing a stronger hair product line.
While neither likes the thought of their sons living and playing football on the west coast so far from home, they do like the fact that Andre and Bruce will be close geographically and in the same football division competitively with the Cardinals and 49ers.
“They’ll get to see each other at least twice a year,” Gwen said.
Each called the success of the camp overwhelming and both were moved and touched by the outpouring of community support in seeing that the camp was a success.
“We want to do this every summer,” Olympia said. “It’s all about returning the blessing.”