WARREN - Numerous athletes have vaulted from the halls of Warren G. Harding High School into the professional ranks. Mario Manningham is one of those success stories who has not forgotten where he got his start.
The current New York Giants receiver and former University of Michigan standout returned to his alma mater Friday for the first day of the two-day Mario Manningham's fifth annual Football Skills Camp. As a part of the event, Manningham will also have his No. 30 jersey retired by the high school this afternoon.
"It means a lot to be back here and it's something I try to do every chance I get," Manningham said. "I wanted to get here for this camp so I can talk to the kids and let them know anything can come true if you put your mind to it."
Jordan Clayton, 16, a Warren G. Harding High School football player, far left, and others listen Friday morning to Harding grad Mario Manningham, a receiver for the New York Giants, right, talk about life lessons during Manningham’s annual Football Skills Camp at Harding.
While today's session will take the roughly 100 campers through the paces on the field at Harding's Mollenkopf Stadium, the youth athletes spent Friday inside the school's auditorium, where they heard from representatives from Key Bank, as well as Chicago-born poet Kweisi and Manningham's agent, Michael Katz of Rosenhaus Sports Representation. And they heard from Manningham.
The goal for Friday, Manningham said, was to give kids a better view of how to handle life off the field, and how to prepare themselves to purse their dreams. Manningham said he wanted to teach the kids from his hometown lessons they can use as they mature into adulthood, football or not.
"I feel like the kids don't have enough structure when it comes to things like learning about banking and learning the little things about life," Mannigham said. "It's not always about seeing it your way, it's about seeing things other people's ways sometimes. "
Katz, who spoke to the athletes about his role as an agent and some of the things they can expect to deal with as professional athletes, said he was proud that his client took the initiative to give back to the Warren community.
"I've been representing Mario for the past three years now, and Mario's principles in life are Warren, Ohio, Warren Harding and his family," Katz said. "He looks at these guys as family and these are his roots, so any opportunity he can get to come give back to this school that's given so much to him, it's the first priority he has."
Harding football coach Steve Arnold coached Manningham when he was a First Team All-Ohio standout on the basketball court. Arnold said that Manningham coming back to his hometown is one of the reasons he ranks him among the best athletes to ever walk the halls of the school.
"I'm really proud of Mario because a lot of guys forget where they came from," Arnold said. "It's huge. Every year, he's been able to do something for the kids, for Harding and just for this whole general area."
A middle school student at Willard PK-8 School, Theran Hargrove was one of the aspiring athletes in attendance Friday. A budding wide receiver on the football field, Hargrove said he was excited to get a chance to learn from a person like Manningham.
"It's really good to have someone like him to look up to because he's giving us an idea of how we have to work," Hargrove said. "His big message to me was that you have to follow your dreams and never give up."