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Ex-NFL star Rison leading camp at UPJ

July 14, 2009
By Josh Langenbacher,

The first time former NFL wide receiver Andre Rison meets with players who register to attend his camp, little is said about his 12-year NFL career.

The second day of his camp, though, is when Rison shows highlights of his football career, such as a Gator Bowl best 252 receiving yards against Georgia when he played at Michigan State or a 54-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XXXI as his Green Bay Packers beat New England, 35-21.

"That's when I really let them know, in my eyes, I was the best to ever play the game," Rison said.

Rison, in part because of his relationship with Cambria County native Janel Strittmatter, will be conducting a football camp Wednesday and Thursday at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown along with former NFL running back Lorenzo White.

What remains to be seen is how many will attend the camp. The most recent number available is 10 to 20 had signed up as of late last week, but Strittmatter and Rison expressed optimism the camp's size will expand with some late additions.

"The show's going on regardless at this point," said Strittmatter, who began to date Rison after meeting him on vacation in Florida a year and a half ago. "I'm just hoping for a good turnout."

Rison, noting other camps he is hosting this summer nearing 200 participants, expressed optimism despite the low turnout to date. Regardless, he has already committed to a second camp at UPJ in the summer of 2010, when Rison said he "should have no less than 75-100 players in the camp."

One player certain to be in this year's camp is Richland sophomore Mackenzie Long, who intends to play in the slot. He said he is unfamiliar with Rison's NFL accomplishments - something not uncommon to campers, Rison said - but is nonetheless excited for the two-day camp, which begins at 8 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m.

"Just even meeting these two guys and the fact this is my first year of varsity football, maybe if I go to this camp, I can learn to play the slot a lot better," Long said.

A point of emphasis, Rison said, is instructing campers not just about the slot or recruiting but about life lessons he gleaned from personal experiences that contributed to his "Bad Moon Rison" nickname.

In 1994, Rison's Atlanta mansion was burnt to the ground by his ex-girlfriend, the late Lisa Lopes of the R&B Group TLC, and most of his possessions were lost. Late child support payments resulted in a month-long jail sentence, and Rison also was arrested and cited for public intoxication in December 2008.

"I've been in highs and lows in all areas," Rison said. "I can talk about anything in life from head to toe, from teen pregnancy to drugs to alcohol."

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