By GRANT KERR
Friday, June 27, 2003
VANCOUVER -- Jerome Pathon is on a mission to teach Canadian kids about the sport he plays so well.
The gifted receiver with the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League played high school football in North Vancouver and he's bringing his quest home next month with a high-profile development camp for eight-to-17-year-olds.
"Your presence there makes a lot of difference to the kids," Pathon said yesterday. "We have to reach the kids and let them know more about the game."
Pathon attended the Canadian Football League opener at B.C. Place a week ago, between the B.C. Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and figures he can contribute to raising the profile of the game in the Vancouver area with his camp in suburban Burnaby on July 19.
"It's important for kids to be able to interact like that," he said. "I've been successful and want to bring this to the community, give back to the same community that gave me an opportunity.
"It's sort of an evolution in your career."
Pathon will be joined in camp by former National Football League players Sam Adkins, Nesby Glasgow, Alonzo Mitz, Randall Morris and Manu Tuiasosopo, along with current players Tony Parish of the San Francisco 49ers, Terrence Wilkins of the St. Louis Rams and New Orleans teammates Terrelle Smith and Donte Stallworth.
There's also a possibility Pathon's new teammate, Canadian-born punter Mitch Berger, will be added to the camp staff, along with several former CFL players.
"We have a prolific offence in New Orleans," he said. "The fans are crazy about the Saints because the game is so big there.
"I wish some teams in Canada could get that type of support. If they did, I think football would be much bigger in Canada. Capturing the younger market might lead to packing the stadiums."
The South African-born Pathon trains in Vancouver during the off-season and has developed a sense of responsibility when it comes to helping others. He plans to expand his camp to three days next year and add a coaching component.
"I've been able to achieve some financial freedom through football, been able to take care of my family and now I want to be productive in the community," said Pathon, who attended Acadia University for a year before completing his education at the University of Washington.
"Being down in the U.S. for nearly 10 years, I've noticed more pro athletes doing things in the community, being ambassadors of the game of football. I want to give kids a chance to be around NFL-calibre athletes and ex-CFL players."
Pathon's NFL career started in Indianapolis and, after five years with the Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning, free agency took him to New Orleans last season, where he caught 43 passes for the 9-7 Saints, mostly from Aaron Brooks.
"I've overcome a lot of obstacles and adversity [in the NFL] by being Canadian and constantly having to prove myself," Pathon said. "Part of it is because there are so many great athletes playing football in the U.S.
"My goal is to play 10 years in the NFL because that's sort of a benchmark. I've already beaten the average and now it's time to win a Super Bowl."
Pathon is entering the second season of a four-year contract with the Saints worth about $10-million (U.S.). Some day, Pathon admitted -- noting salary wouldn't be a factor -- he'd like to play a year or two in the CFL, where his rights are held by the Montreal Alouettes.
"This game has given me the opportunity to do so many different things," Pathon said. "I have the free time to have varying interests and a nice lifestyle."
After earning all-Canadian honours at Acadia and All-American acclaim at Washington, Pathon would like to be selected to the NFL Pro Bowl game in which the league's top players perform at the end of each season in Hawaii.