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Javon Hargrave visits with fans at Chick-fil-a

SALISBURY — Local sports legend Javon Hargrave, a 2016 third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, kicked off a return trip home Tuesday with a stop by Chick-Fil-A.

But the 2011 graduate of North Rowan High School wasn’t there for a quick bite. For 45 minutes in the midafternoon, Hargrave signed autographs and smiled for pictures with fans.

Philip Martin, general manager of the Towne Creek Commons Chick-Fil-A, said the meet-and-greet was in celebration of Hargrave’s second annual Javon Hargrave Youth Football Camp this Saturday.

“We’re partnering with Javon trying to give back to our community,” said Martin. “He decided to do this for us.”

For Hargrave, the mingle was a fun way to celebrate his return home. He’d been back just a day or so, he said.

“It’s always good to be back to see faces I know, to just be around,” he said.

Hargrave entered the restaurant with a crowd waiting for him. Members of his family — his father and an aunt and uncle — and friends all gathered around a table decked with Steeler paraphernalia.

The rest of the crowded restaurant was filled with others who’d been waiting with items for autographing: hats, “Terrible Towels,” magazines, jerseys and more.

Some traveled from neighboring cities and had been waiting for hours for their chance to meet the football player.

“I saw this on Facebook about two months ago and I saved it. I said, ‘I’ve got to go,'” said Cynthia Adams, who drove from Lexington with her niece and nephew, Dominick Miller and Alex Batts. “… He’s very polite, even to be so successful.”

After meeting Hargrave, Batts stood in a signed Steelers jacket and earned a smile from Miller.

“I told him he reminded me a little bit of Hargrave,” Miller said. “Just without the beard.”

For Hargrave’s father, Timothy Bates, the upcoming day camp offers a chance for young people to hear and be inspired by Hargrave’s story.

“He had a setback going to college. He had to wait one semester before he could go,” said Bates.

Bates said Hargrave missed his original entrance into South Carolina State by one point between his ACT scores and his grades in school.

“That was a hardest lesson of his life,” said Bates. “That really got him focused on what he wanted in life, but he’s always had the drive to succeed.”

Another valuable lesson from Hargrave’s journey into the NFL was the importance of how students behave in their formative years.

“When they were drafting him, they came here and talked to his fifth-grade teacher and asked what type of person he was,” said Bates. “I always tell kids, ‘What you do now is very important.’ Those teachers you don’t like, you might end up loving them because they’re going to be the ones to say yes or no.”

Hargrave’s camp will be held at North Rowan High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Boys and girls ages 6 to 14 are welcome. Registration begins at 8 a.m.

The camp is free, but participants are asked to bring two canned goods for Rowan Helping Ministries’ food pantry.

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