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Youth camp illustrates Sensabaugh's commitment to hometown values

STEVE WILMOTH, TriCitiesSports.com • Jun 4, 2017 at 1:30 AM

KINGSPORT — The Sensabaugh Camp Classic wrote its fifth chapter Saturday at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.

The free, non-contact football camp for youth ages 6-17 is headed by hometown benefactors Coty and Dominique Sensabaugh.

Coty prepped at Dobyns-Bennett High School, played collegiately at Clemson and is set to begin his sixth season as a cornerback in the NFL.

“I’m very happy, very thankful and very blessed to be able to put on this camp,” Coty Sensabaugh said. “It brings everything back home. I am Kingsport. Everything I do represents Kingsport.”

The long arm of the Sensabaugh’s philanthropy has reached from coast to coast, beginning with his four years in Nashville with the Tennessee Titans before splitting the 2016 season between Los Angeles with the Rams and New York with the Giants.

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Through the group Soles4Souls, Coty and Dominique have helped collect and distribute more than 11,000 pairs of shoes in the Dominican Republic, delivering over 500 pairs during their honeymoon last year. Sensabaugh recently partnered with Food for the Hungry, an organization that strives to end human poverty and world hunger and help provide fresh water systems to communities in Haiti, and with the First Step Program, an initiative giving kids and teens the opportunity to engage with community leaders on a regular basis.

During National Volunteer Week this past April, Sensabaugh was one of five NFL players recognized as a Daily Point of Light, an award that honors exceptional volunteers and celebrates the power of the individual to spark change and improve the world. He also was runner-up for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year Award in Nashville in 2012 and received the Boy Scouts Distinguished Citizenship Award in 2013.

“It’s cool to get some recognition, it’s an honor and I appreciate it,” Sensabaugh said. “But all the stuff we do, we don’t do it for recognition. We do it because we love putting smiles on people’s faces.”

Sensabaugh’s own effervescent smile might have briefly evaporated last season. Four games into a three-year, $14 million dollar deal with the Rams, he was cut.

The Giants quickly swooped in, adding Sensabaugh to shore up their injury-depleted secondary.

“I’m probably one of the first players ever to sign that kind of deal and then get cut four games into it,” he noted. “Ironically, the Giants were the first team to call me in free agency before I signed with the Rams. It’s crazy how God brings it all full circle and connects the dots. I’m thankful for it all and it made me a better person and a better football player. I grew tremendously from it.”

Sensabaugh was an immediate contributor for the Giants at nickel cornerback and on the outside as well as special teams. He also got his first taste of playoff football, although the Giants lost 38-13 to Green Bay in the wild-card round.

“Playing in the playoffs for the first time was an awesome experience,” Sensabaugh said. “We just ran into a hot quarterback and a hot offense at the time in Green Bay.”

Sensabaugh hopes to have a chance to play deeper into the playoffs this year with the Steelers after signing a deal with Pittsburgh in March.

“I loved my time in New York and am forever thankful, but Pittsburgh just felt right,” he said. “You just follow your heart and trust your gut.”

In Pittsburgh, Sensabaugh will play in a defensive system similar to the one he played under with the Titans.

“It’s a system that I’m comfortable with and familiar with and I believe it will bring out the best in me,” said Sensabaugh, who could play either the nickel or the outside.

“I’m comfortable with both, whatever they need me to do. The Steelers made it to the AFC championship game last year and I want to help them get two games better. That’s the goal.”

Another goal is to continue to expand and refine the Sensabaugh Camp Classic.

“This is chapter five and the camp has improved every year and grown every year,” he said. “The reaction from the community has also gotten better every year. It’s something we look forward to every year.”

There will be at least one new camper in 2018. Coty and Dominque will welcome their first child in September.

“We are very excited,” said a beaming Sensabaugh. “God has blessed us with a son. He’ll definitely be out here next year.”

Among those helping Saturday at D-B were former NFL defensive back and current David Crockett coach Gerald Sensabaugh, former Tennessee player and current East Tennessee State assistant Teddy Gaines, free-agent defensive back Marcus Gilchrist, recently of the New York Jets, and former D-B Tennessee defensive back Malik Foreman.

Foreman and Ty Hayworth, another former Tribe player who completed his college career this past season at Wake Forest, both signed as free agents after April’s NFL draft.

“I told both of those guys I wanted them to enjoy the process,” Sensabaugh noted. “There are a lot of people they have met along the way that would love to be in their position. Just be thankful and enjoy it.”

Hayworth completed his tryout with the Jacksonville Jaguars last month while Foreman’s never got off the ground due to a neck injury.

“They are going to bounce back on their feet, they just have to stick with it,” continued Sensabaugh. “Life throws you curveballs at different points in life and this was their point.”

A host of other volunteers, high school coaches, family members and friends also once again staffed the camp.

“There are a lot of people involved that make the camp go. There are a lot of moving pieces to make this happen. Without them it can’t be done.”

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