Life after the NFL: Edgerrin James finds meaning as father, mentor

ORLANDO — His welcome mat reads: The Property.

Edgerrin James relaxes on the back porch overlooking the lake on the sprawling 5-acre estate. It's 11 a.m. and the former NFL star just rolled out of bed. Who can blame him? At 34, he's retired.

But James doesn't lounge around all day. Instead, the former Immokalee High standout will be father to more than his children, whose mother died three years ago.

James entertains, coaches and mentors more than 100 underprivileged children for eight weeks every summer.

There is a wrought-iron gate at the driveway at The Property but the camp is open to any kid. It's free. The kids have nothing and the camp is everything. A punt, pass and a kick from Disney World, it is filled with instruction on football, basketball and life.

James says it's better than any amusement park.

"Once we took about 50 kids to the Disney parks, and that's not cheap, and in a couple of hours they were bored," James said. "They never get bored here."
James isn't your typical camp organizer. The plausible future Hall of Famer ranks 11th all-time in NFL rushing with 12,246 yards. As the first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1999, he made an immediate impact. He became the first player to lead the league in rushing his first two years. The Indianapolis Colts will recognize his talents today by inducting him into their Ring of Honor.

James says he doesn't miss football. He does miss the love of his life, Andia Wilson, who died in 2009. In her memory, he tackles society's stereotypes of being a black father and an athlete.

"Everything I do now I want to do forever," said James, who still lives in Naples full-time while spending the summers in Orlando. "I was on the clock for football. There's no way I would want to do it forever."

In the camp's three-year history, James said he's only missed one day. This past summer, he had to be in Atlanta for business on a Monday evening. He flew out after the football drills and back the same night on the redeye to be at camp the next day.

"This is who he is," said Evan Wilson, a camp counselor and uncle of James' children. "He is all about the kids."

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