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English gives hometown a helping hand

AURORA – Since NFL players were locked out in March, San Diego Chargers defensive end Larry English has been forced to focus on how he can improve individually if, or when, the 2011 season begins.

But on Thursday night, English flew in from San Diego to serve as the keynote speaker for The Friends of Aurora’s After-School Programs’ Hope For Tomorrow Scholarship Dinner. All of the dinner’s proceeds went to raise money for scholarships to benefit FAAP’s mentors.

“It’s close to my heart to do something like this,” said English, a Marmion and Northern Illinois graduate.

English’s San Diego-based The Larry English L.E.A.D. Foundation recently finished its pilot program. Through his experience with his own foundation, which emphasizes the importance of academics to student-athletes, the third-year outside linebacker has started a program similar to FAAP’s one-on-one reading mentorship program.

The programs’ similar mission, along with the English family’s relationship with FAAP’s executive director, Janet Momper, made English an ideal speaker for Thursday night’s fundraiser.

“My personal experience is that I was blessed with a wonderful family and a great mother that was a great role model in my life. She was always there and a great source of guidance, but everybody doesn’t have that,” English said. “I’ve seen a lot of talented kids who really didn’t reach their potential. So we really just wanted to create something (the L.E.A.D. Foundation) that could help prevent that.”

The FAAP’s mentoring program “is the same type of thing we’ve been working [on],” English said. “It’s [about] mentoring kids – just being a positive role model and creating a mindset where people can succeed.”

English, who grew up in Aurora, will continue to give back to his hometown today when he returns to Marmion to host a football camp. Similarly to Thursday’s fundraiser and his work with the L.E.A.D. Foundation, English hopes to use his high-profile occupation to provide kids with a positive role model.

Entering his third season in the NFL, English, a former first-round draft pick, has been forced to find a delicate balance between high-intensity training and resting this offseason.

English broke his foot in training camp in 2010. He played through the pain, but doctors decided to insert a pair of screws into his foot after two games. The surgery hampered his performance for much of the season, but it didn’t fix his foot.

In March, another screw was inserted into English’s injured foot. At this point in the offseason, English says “the foot’s doing good. I got some time off to really let it rest.”

Now, English’s focus has returned to staying in shape and improving individually. It’s been more difficult this year because NFL coaches aren’t able to interact with the league’s players because of the lockout.

“My focus is getting better individually as players and soon we’ll be able to reunite as a team when the business side of things get worked out,” English said. “But right now, we’ve just got to work on what our job is, which is being in good shape and being ready to play football.”

For a few days, however, English’s focus is in improving his hometown.

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