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NFL stars ‘come back home’ for charity game in Stafford

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BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

After Brandon Banks dazzled the crowd at Stafford High School with a pair of acrobatic lay-ups, he turned toward spectators and asked them to get louder.

The diminutive Washington Redskins kick returner was one of several NFL standouts who participated in Friday night’s charity basketball game hosted by Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Smith’s foundation teamed up with Redskins wide receiver Anthony Armstrong’s Lucky 13 charitable organization to host the contest.

The theme was Ravens vs. Redskins.

But although the Beltway rivals are fierce competitors on the gridiron, the mood was lighthearted as a packed crowd of approximately 1,600 spectators took in the action.

“It’s amazing the progress we’ve made as a community,” said Smith, a Stafford graduate and Colonial Beach native. “So I’m thankful for all the support. With that support, we’ll be able to do great things [in the Fredericksburg area] and in Baltimore.”

Smith certainly received a boost from his NFL brethren on Friday.

Redskins Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green played in the game.

Other participants included Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice,

Philadelphia Eagles star running back LeSean McCoy and Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden.

The Ravens won the game, 76–75, but that mattered little as the players mingled with fans and signed autographs afterward.

“My motivation for playing was just to give back,” Banks said. “It’s all for a good cause. Torrey Smith and Anthony Armstrong came up with a good idea to give back, and I’m just glad to help.”

Famed NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents many of the players who participated, helped, too.

Rosenhaus introduced all of the players as they each received loud ovations.

Haden, a former Spotsylvania County resident, was welcomed with healthy applause.

The 2010 No. 7 overall draft pick said he and his family were excited to return to the region.

“This is familiar for me,” said Haden, who attended high school in Fort Washington, Md. “I lived here from first through sixth grade. It’s pretty special to come back home.”

Green’s son, Jared, has been friends with Smith since high school.

Green said Smith reminds him of himself in terms of wanting to give back to the community.

“I’ve been down that road where you’re trying to figure out how to serve the community as best you can,” Green said.

“You want to take advantage of the resources you’ve been given. So this is what it’s all about.”

A few former area standouts who didn’t suit up were in attendance, as well.

New Orleans Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod sat on the Ravens bench.

The King George County native was joined by his cousin Justin Anderson, a University of Virginia basketball recruit, and Duke basketball player Josh Hairston, a former Courtland star.

Armstrong said the theme of the game stemmed from the fact that he and Smith share the same foundation manager.

“It worked out well, bringing us two together,” Armstrong said. “He’s from Virginia, and this is big Redskins country. I’m thankful we were able to share this with the fans.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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