Rowan University’s football stadium played host to the 21st annual All-Star Football classic, which features over 80 of the top seniors around South Jersey. For the past 11 years, the game has been dedicated to Adam Taliaferro, who recovered from a paralyzing spinal cord injury while playing for Penn State University in 2000.
The game, though, is overshadowed by the true meaning of the event: bringing recognition to spinal cord injuries and providing immediate treatment. The All-Star game has helped tremendously in financing and promoting the Adam Taliaferro Foundation; something that is greatly appreciated by Taliaferro.
“It’s a blessing,” said Taliaferro while standing in the far corner of the field during the third quarter, “the support is amazing.”
Also in attendance was former Rutgers defensive lineman Eric Legrand. After suffering a similar injury to Taliaferro in 2010 in a game against Army, Legrand, who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, has been making terrific progress as he continues to prove doctors wrong after they said he would never come off a ventilator; he is now eating solid foods and is off the ventilator.
The foundation has been a big help to players like Legrand.
“[The game] is the biggest fundraiser that helps Eric Legrand and other injured players in their recovery,” said Taliaferro, “I thank the community for the support.”
To the fundraiser itself, the game generates fans from all over the area that fill up both set of bleachers and even line up along the fence around the field. Those in attendance were treated to a well-fought game that ended with the White team winning 24-20 over the Blue team.
The game started off slow with both sides failing to score in their opening drives; but then came the first score of the night halfway through the first quarter when St. Joseph’s running back Gordon Hill made a few defenders miss on his way into the end zone for the Blue team.
One of the plays of the night, though, was made by Jae DeShields of Bridgeton when he executed a fake punt to perfection — he stretched out a 64-yard touchdown run. He then followed that up with his second touchdown of the night in the fourth quarter after hauling in a 30-yard touchdown pass. However, DeShields’ strong effort was not enough for the Blue team.
“I really wasnt expecting to perform how I did, but I’m really excited that I could go out and represent Adam Taliaferro, my coaches, family and friends, and last but not least my city of Bridgeton. I’m going to miss all of my teammates. We all had a great week together and I want to wish everyone luck in the future,” Said DeShields.
The White team claimed victory after Kingsway product Rondell Gilmore-Lane connected with Gloucester’s Brandon Blackiston on a three-yard touchdown pass to cap off the winning drive.
“The touchdown felt great, I was given the opportunity to make a big play, and I came through, as did everyone else on the white team. We all took part in the victory,” said Blackiston.
No matter the outcome, though, every player selected to participate in the Adam Taliaferro game will always remember the special occasion.
“Being selected was an honor. I enjoyed my time there with some of the best football players in South Jersey. If I had to do it over again, I would, no doubt about it. Playing in the game was fun,” said Collingswood wide receiver Bryant Jones of the White team after capping off his high school career with a victory.
“It was the best four days of my life. I came to the camp not knowing really anyone. I left with each one of my teammates not only being my friend, but my brother,” said Blackiston, who will be attending