ROWLAND — Young people might have the chance on Saturday to toss the football around with a member of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens —weather permitting.
Vonta Leach, a Rowland native who played fullback for Rowland, says he will be hanging around in the town park following a parade in his honor.
“I may play catch with the kids … I’ll just go with the flow,” said Leach, a graduate of South Robeson High School and East Carolina University.
The town is honoring Leach, whose Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 3 to win football’s most coveted prize. The three-hour celebration will include a parade that will begin at 11 a.m. with a procession down Main Street; units and floats should assemble at about 10 a.m. at Rowland Middle School.
The town expects eight floats, cheerleaders, three bands and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team to be part of the parade. A celebration will follow the parade at the Rowland Ballpark on McCormick Street, according to Councilman Paul Hunt.
The weatherman says it might rain on Leach’s parade, putting the odds of wet stuff at 100 percent for Saturday. The highs should be in the mid-50s.
“We are planning on a couple thousand people or so attending, depending on the weather,” Hunt said. “We don’t have an alternative if the weather turns bad. We just have our fingers crossed.”
In a recent article by the Charlotte Observer about Leach , a source close to Leach estimated he had given the town about $400,000 in donations in recent years. The article said Leach:
— Has held a free summer football camp each year since 2006. The camp had more than 600 participants last year.
— Paid off a mortgage of more than $200,000 for New Hope United Methodist Church, his home church.
— Given $100 gift cards to nearly 400 kids since 2007 for an annual holiday shopping spree at the Walmart in Lumberton. The largest spree, for 120 kids, was in 2012.
— Provided scholarships totaling thousands of dollars to high school students.
— Renovated his high school weight room and bought the middle school football team new helmets, pads and jerseys, at a cost of about $15,000.
“… We want to show our appreciation for everything he has done for the community,” Hunt said.
Leach told The Robesonian he is excited about the day.
“It feels good to know that my hometown is honoring me,” Leach said. “It feels good to bring the Super Bowl to Robeson County and my hometown of Rowland.”
Leach feels as though it’s about more than just giving back to his hometown.
“A lot of kids don’t have positive role models,” Leach said. “I’m put in a position where I can be a role model so I want to give that to the children.”
For Leach, it’s hard to forget the struggles he faced in Rowland growing up — challenges he wants to spare future generations.
“Growing up in Rowland we didn’t always have the best equipment or uniforms,” Leach said. “We made due with what we had and appreciated that. To be from the smallest school in the county and be faced with a lot of obstacles against me growing up, you can’t forget where you came from and you just have to give back.”
The town is accepting donations to pay for the event. After the bills are paid, any money remaining will go to the Vonta Leach Foundation.
“We have 38 sponsors and we’ve earned enough to pay for the event,” Hunt said. “The remainder is going to the Foundation. So far we’ve raised $7,375. We hope to at least give Vonta a couple thousand dollars.”
Leach is ready to put that money to work.
“It will help me continue doing what I’m doing with my foundation,” Leach said. “We can give various funds to schools throughout the year. The money earned will get cycled right back into the community.”