MADISON, Miss. (AP) Sporting a straw hat to ward off the sun, Cleveland Browns defensive back Micah Pellerin keeps a watchful eye on the middle school kids racing across a football field in this historic Mississippi railroad town.
The blazing morning sun already has temperatures into the 90s, so Pellerin and his former high school teammate Joe Marquez keep tabs on repetitions for each fundamental drill. They mix in frequent water and rest breaks, plus encouragement and smiles. Lots of smiles.
''It was important for me to come back and give back at least in some capacity for what this school did for me, particularly coming after (Hurricane) Katrina,'' said Pellerin, a 2007 graduate of St. Joseph High School. ''They opened their arms to me.''
Pellerin and his family left Metairie, Louisiana, in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina and relocated to Jackson. He developed as a two-way player for the small parochial school, serving as a wing back, wide receiver and defensive back in addition to running track.
Pellerin later played football at the University of Southern Mississippi and at Hampton University. He went undrafted but signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2012, and played in eight games total in 2013 and 2014 with Dallas and the Tennessee Titans.
The Browns signed the 26-year-old to a future contract in January.
Pellerin hooked back up with his close friend Marquez, a former Millsaps College football player, a couple of years ago to start the weeklong camp emphasizing tackling, ball protection, teamwork and communication.
They want the players to improve, have fun and not ''dread coming to practice,'' Marquez said.
That's where the smiles come in. Misplayed drills are greeted with laughter, gentle chiding and encouragement. And through repetition, the players improve.
''The middle school camp is three days, and if I told them a million things, they are not going to retain all that,'' said Pellerin. ''The most important thing is understanding what things in football can cross over in all positions. Speed, agility and things of that nature.''
Pellerin and Marquez hope their drills are useful to other sports and that the kids walk away with confidence.
''You get that from showing them what to do and, once they do it, see the results and benefits of it,'' Pellerin said.