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Butler, Cochran give back

Giving back to the people of Bainbridge and Decatur County are what former Bainbridge High School Bearcat, Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket and National Football League Super Bowl champion James Butler and Bearcats coach Kelvin Cochran are all about.

Each summer they coordinate a youth football camp for 8- to 18-year-old youngsters at Centennial Field sponsored by the James Butler Dream Program, a non-profit initiative focusing on mentoring, education and youth leadership.

Butler was a starting safety for the New York Giants when they defeated the previously undefeated New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., in 2008, and is now with the St. Louis Rams where his former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo is head coach. He stays busy with games during the fall and off-season conditioning during the winter and summer, so Butler gets Cochran to coordinate the camp and other charitable activities under Butler’s name on this end.

Butler, with Cochran handling things in Bainbridge, also sends money home for Thanksgiving meals, Christmas gifts and other items needed and deeply appreciated by the less fortunate.

He arranges for local coaches to work at the camp and helps Dream Program officials with camp sign-up procedures.

“Coach Cochran has always been there for me and a lot of other young people,” Butler said. “If we ever have a problem we know we can go to him and he will give us great advice.”

Butler and Cochran believe that giving back to hometowns and counties that supported them when they were growing up is something all professional athletes should consider and ultimately do.

Cochran said one of the most gratifying things he gets from working with Butler and other local athletes and students is strong relationships with their families.

“James’s parents, the Rev. James Butler Sr. and Nadine Butler, have taken me into their family,” said Cochran, who has been a member of the Bearcats varsity football coaching staff since 1997. “So have other families whose children have confided in me.

During James Butler Day in his hometown of Climax following the Giants 2008 Super Bowl victory over the Patriots, Cochran rode in the parade with the Butler family.

After the parade he talked about what a great faith, family and work ethic Butler had and how instrumental it was in his NFL success.

“In high school and college James Butler, who was a BHS honor graduate, demonstrated to everyone what a true student athlete is,” Cochran said.

Butler excelled in football and basketball, where he was a first-team All-Region 1AAAA selection, and as a sophomore, he won the state Class AAAA long jump championship in track. He went on to Georgia Tech, which is a strong academic institution, and made the dean’s list every semester. He was also an All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) defensive back there, Cochran said of Butler.

“Giving back to the people of Bainbridge and Decatur County who welcomed me with open arms when I moved here in 1996, is something I wanted to do, and James Butler gave me that opportunity,” Cochran said.

“Being able to play in the NFL is a dream come true for James. Everyone will not have the ability to live the NFL dream like James, but they can all reach their dreams in whatever field they pursue. It is my mission to help young people live their dreams by providing them with the educational resources necessary to succeed.”

Cochran said one of the most gratifying things for him as an educator each year is when he has an opportunity to congratulate a young man or young lady right after they sign an athletic scholarship.

“I urge all young people to set their goals high and go after them,” said Cochran, who coaches at Bainbridge High School as an assistant basketball and football coach.

Cochran, a 1992 graduate of Macon County High School in Montezuma, played tight end at Liberty University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. He and his wife, the former Rochelle Peterson of Bainbridge, have a son Kelvin Jr., who everyone knows as K.J.

Cochran’s brother, Antonio Cochran, was an All-American linebacker with the University of Georgia Bulldogs who went on to play for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

Butler’s Dream Program raises awareness and funds for literacy, low income families and healthy decision making in the community.

Cochran and Butler talk by telephone each week of the NFL season.

“When we talk we discuss a variety of things,” Cochran said. “We evaluate his most recent game and he often updates me about things coming up in his Dream Program.”

Kelvin Cochran and James Butler provide a caring and helpful hand to the people of Bainbridge and Decatur County throughout the year.