Days from the start of NFL training camp, Pro Bowl Carolina Panthers running back, CJ Anderson, is giving children in his hometown of Vallejo, CA the opportunity to learn about football and technology.
Anderson’s Dreams Never Die Foundation will hold its third annual free football camp on on July 21 and is partnering with Google to give selected camp attendees the opportunity to tour the tech empire’s Silicon Valley headquarters.
After playing at Jesse M. Bethel High School in Vallejo, Anderson played at Laney College before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley. Despite not being drafted, Anderson has become one of the league’s most effective running backs. After five seasons with Denver Broncos, Anderson will join the Carolina Panthers this season.
Despite his Pro Bowl experience and Super Bowl championship, Anderson’s heart never ventured far from his hometown, despite his NFL career taking him long distances away from it. Vallejo shaped the man who has earned a reputation as one of the hardest working and most tenacious players in the NFL.
“It’s a pride thing. People overlook us–people overlook the city,” Anderson told RULING SPORTS. “We are always going to grind and put our head down and put the work in. That’s what me, my mom, grandma and the whole city do.”
Located in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay, Vallejo has gained a reputation as one of the most crime-ridden cities in the state. Vallejo has been plagued by issues of poverty, drug dealing, and gangs. Growing up in the midst of all this chaos, Anderson saw football as his only way out.
“I know a lot of people who grew up like myself in single parent homes without a father and in the inner city where drugs, gangs, and violence were happening a lot,” Anderson reflected. “Some kids look at sports and music and see it as the only way out. Some kids don’t get out. They refer back to what they’ve seen growing up, whether that’s selling drugs or joining gangs, things of that nature.”
Leaving Vallejo for college, Anderson saw what else life could offer. Soon, he realized other ways outside of football, music or crime existed to exit the cycle of poverty.
“Luckily I had the athletic ability to get out, but in college I fell in love with technology and history–things that had I been exposed to when I was younger, I probably never would have picked up a football,” Anderson said.
It is this realization that motivated Anderson to offer to the youth of Vallejo not only a football camp, but an opportunity to network with technology leaders from Google.
“I just want to give the kids the opportunity that I didn’t have,” Anderson said. “It’s bigger than just the next athlete or next music star or next drug dealer, or gang member in the neighborhood.”
Anderson emphasizes that while football provided him opportunities outside of his community, football cannot do so for everyone.
“These kids can do anything,” he remarked. “They can start your their podcast, open their businesses, whatever it may be. We are providing that foundation. We are giving the kids resources and expanding their horizons, and giving them opportunities so they don’t have to go back to those bad situations or make those bad decisions.”