July 4 has lots of happy memories

Published 8:31 am Monday, July 2, 2012

While looking forward to enjoying our July 4 Independence Day holiday today in Bainbridge, my mind flashed back to a special Independence Day I had with my New Jersey relatives back in 2008.

My cousins, Bill and Maurine Collins, and their son, Michael, took me to Long Branch Beach on the New Jersey shore for the day.

It was just about five months after the New York Giants beat the previously-undefeated New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

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As we sat around the beach enjoying our Independence Day hot dogs, hamburgers and all the trimmings, I proudly told my cousins about a Decatur County native, Giants starting safety James Butler, who was a major contributor to the Giants’ Super Bowl victory.

When I got back home from my New Jersey vacation, I sent Bill, Maurine and Michael a copy of our paper, which contained a feature on James, a former All-Region 1-AAAA performer with the Bainbridge High School Bearcats and All-ACC performer with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

I knew they were all Giants fans and I wanted to let them know how proud Bainbridge and Decatur County is of James, who is the son of the Rev. James Butler Sr. and Nadine Butler. What a fine young man he is.

When James returned from the Giants’ big Super Bowl victory, the good citizens of his hometown of Climax had a special day in his honor and an area of U.S. Highway 84 was named for him.

James has continued to give back to Decatur County residents throughout his professional football career, which has also included a tenure with the St. Louis Rams.

Each summer he and other former Bearcats and current NFL players, like Darryl Gamble of the San Diego Chargers, Ray Dominguez of the Green Bay Packers and Malcolm Sheppard of the Tennessee Titans, return home to help put on a James Butler Dream Foundation Weekend.

The highlight of the weekend is a clinic for youngsters at Centennial Field. Bearcats coaches and other former Bearcats players assist in the camp as well.

The clinic is part of the James Butler Dream Foundation, which provides programs focusing on mentoring, education and youth leadership. It also aims to raise awareness and funds for literacy, low-income families and healthy decision making in the community.

Bearcats strength and conditioning coach Kelvin Cochran, who coached James with the Bearcats, coordinates the James Butler weekend each year.

This year’s James Butler weekend will be Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14. More details about the weekend’s activities, along with where to access applications, will be coming soon.

Joe Crine is the sports editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at joe.crine@thepostsearchlight.com.