NFL linebacker’s visit brightens Thanksgiving

Dannell Ellerbe and wife, son visit seniors, hand out meals
Ellerbe: ‘I’m from here. I know how hard times can be.’

By Kevin Spradlin 
and Nick Beggs
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – more than 450 snapshots!

ROCKINGHAM — It’s a good thing Dannell Ellerbe no longer needs the assistance of crutches. On Wednesday, they simply wouldn’t do.

Recovery from a preseason injury that’s wiped out his 2014 season with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, the Richmond Senior High School product and former Raider linebacker offered handshakes and hugs — and even received a kiss or two — from elderly admirers at the Richmond County Aging Services. In fact, Vernon Stubbs might even have thrown in a proposition with one of the ladies in the room.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Carolyn Walker, a member of the board of directors for Richmond County Aging Services, thanks Dannell Ellerbe for his efforts in providing 85 meals to area seniors on Wednesday in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Carolyn Walker, a member of the board of directors for Richmond County Aging Services, thanks Dannell Ellerbe for his efforts in providing 85 meals to area seniors on Wednesday in Rockingham.

Ellerbe, in town through Thanksgiving and his 29th birthday on Nov. 29, reached out to the Richmond County Department of Social Services and asked if there was a way he could brighten someone’s holiday. Yes, was the answer. Working with FATZ Cafe in Rockingham, Ellerbe and Social Services staff delivered 85 meals to the Lawrence Street facility and Area Richmond Transit helped transport seniors from across the county to visit Ellerbe, grab a warm meal and a wish for a Happy Thanksgiving.

Through the laughs, general greetings and more than a few tears, though, there were moments of connection. One such moment came from Ann Paschal. Paschal didn’t come to ask anything of Ellerbe; instead, she wanted to show him something.

Paschal reached nto her purse for a worn white envelope. Inside was a Prisoner of War medal and ribbon her husband J.B. Paschal had earned while serving in the Army during World War II.

“I know I probably should have not brought it,” Paschal said, “but I’m just so proud of him.”

Paschal’s husband, a South Carolina native, spent a year as a Prisoner of War. He died in 1976.

Paschal said she had lost her husband’s original ribbon and was able to obtain a new one with the help of U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson. She respected what her husband did while serving in World War II, she said. But that didn’t stunt her admiration for what Ellerbe has done with his life.

“I’m proud of how he’s made out in the football,” Paschal said. “I thank him for what he’s done today, and I appreciate him.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Hugs, smiles and a kiss or two greeted former Raider Dannell Ellerbe.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Hugs, smiles and a kiss or two greeted former Raider Dannell Ellerbe.

Carolyn Walker, a member of the Richmond County Aging Services board of directors, said she exercises daily at the Lawrence Street location — though she’s not yet in NFL shape — and was grateful for Ellerbe’s community outreach.

“It makes them feel wonderful that people care,” Walker said.

It means a lot to local senior residents, Walker said, when others work “to make sure they’re being taken care of.”

Ellerbe was joined by his wife, Shervella, and their 6-month-old son, Nevan — who received several offers of free babysitting from a number of seniors.

Judy Tyndall, director of the Ellerbe Senior Center, teared up when talking with Ellerbe about football. Her son, Matt Speight, recently completed his senior season as a defensive back for the Raiders. Some games, Tyndall said, she sat beside Ellerbe’s mother and they shared stories about their sons.

“She’s one proud momma,” Tyndall said.

Ellerbe responded with his infectious, ear-to-ear grin.

When necessary, Ellerbe went the ahead step and visited curbside with seniors in their vehicles. Mary Evers, of East Rockingham, was tickled pink.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Hugs were common - and, every time, genuine.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Hugs were common – and, every time, genuine.

“I used to watch him play when he played at Richmond,” Evers said.

Evers said she was glad to see the NFL lifestyle hadn’t absorbed Ellerbe enough for him to forget his roots. He helps, she said, because “it’s from the heart. I think he likes giving back to people.”

This season hasn’t gone as planned for Ellerbe, 28. Even before the season started, a hip injury put the Dolphins’ second-year linebacker on injured reserve after coming to the team with such high hopes. Ellerbe played a key role in the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013. A month later, Ellerbe signed a five-year, $35 million free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins.

Last season, Ellerbe played in 15 games and recorded 70 solo tackles and a career-high two interceptions. This year’s been different. He’s been relegated to watching the team from his Miami area home on the television. As a teammate and fan, he believes the 6-5 Dolphins, second in the AFC East behind the 9-2 New England Patriots, have a shot at a wild card spot in the playoffs.

Ellerbe said she shed the crutches about two weeks ago and that the planned rehabilitation is ahead of schedule.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Shervella Ellerbe didn't have to worry about paying for babysitting services while in town through the end of the month for her son, Nevan. The family is in town through Dannell Ellerbe's birthday on Nov. 29.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Shervella Ellerbe didn’t have to worry about paying for babysitting services while in town through the end of the month for her son, Nevan. The family is in town through Dannell Ellerbe’s birthday on Nov. 29.

“It’s going good,” Ellerbe said. “I’m just happy to be able to walk again on my own. Right now I’m doing stretches, stationary work, step-downs and it’s going good because I’m ahead of schedule.”

This isn’t the first time Ellerbe has returned to Richmond County to give back. Each of the past two summers, he’s hosted a free football clinic at Richmond Senior High School. He’s considering adding to his repertoire of good deeds in his home county.
Filed in: Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham, Sports

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