BENNETTSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – Friday’s matchup between Cheraw and Marlboro High may not have been “the” homecoming game, but it marked the homecoming of one high-profile alumnus.
Now- retired NFL star Robert Ayers was in town and brought with him brand new shoulder pads for his old football team.
“It just helps you play better,” Ayers explained. “It’s all about the competition on this field and I want my guys to win.”
In addition to bringing all-new shoulder pads, he also brought 15 signed jerseys and his helmet from his rookie year with the Denver Broncos. The items were raffled off, proceeds going directly to the school.
“Hopefully we get a lot of people to give money,” he said. “We’re going to pick names and pick 16 winners and take pictures and sign autographs. It’s just a way to raise money and give back. Hopefully, a lot of people contribute.”
Giving back was a big theme for Ayers Friday. He not only provided the school with financial support, he gave the football team some words of advice in a pre-game speech.
“My motto is shoot for the moon,” Ayers said. “I wanted to encourage these guys to think outside Marlboro county. Think outside just football. To think outside of just high school. Where do you want to see yourselves as men?”
Some students were clearly starstruck to meet the renowned football player.
“He’s really gotten far and I’m really proud to see a guy come out of Marlboro County and come back and do something so special for us,” junior Aaron Campbell said. “Because not many people come back.”
One retired coach, who called Ayers one of the ‘smartest football players’ he’s ever worked with, remembers working with him as a highschooler.
“When the defense went on the field, I was coach on the sideline and he was coach on the field,” retired coach Randy Neely remembers. “He always got the job done.”
It didn’t long for Ayers to make his way to the sidelines of the field, cheering on the Marlboro High Bulldogs.
“I’m a passionate guy, so I come back, I’m on the sidelines yelling, I’m encouraging, I’m running up the field cheering for these guys,” he said. “It’s been a while, I’m going to have fun with it.”