Desmond King gives back to a special community on a special day
Former Hawkeye Chauncey Golston also volunteers his time for the kids
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Every day, we’re reminded on a continual basis about how messed up our country is right now with racial unrest, political divisiveness and random violence.
It certainly has to be reported on and can’t be ignored, but it wears on you, the non-stop negativity and deep-rooted hate and prejudice.
That’s why it was so refreshing and inspiring to cover the Desmond King Juneteenth Football Camp on Saturday at City High School.
A young black man who grew up in Detroit was back in the town where he became a star defensive back for the Iowa football team to give something back to the community, and more specifically, to the kids.
The camp, which was free, and for kids in grades 1 through 12, was held on Saturday to mark the anniversary of Juneteenth, which also by coincidence became a federal holiday on Thursday.
“Actually, I didn’t know it was going to be a federal holiday, but I wanted this (day) because of its significance to all of us,” said King’s mother, Yvette Powell, who helped organize the free camp. “It’s the freedom, period. I’m looking at it as unity, and that’s what this is about.”
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. It originated in Galveston, Texas and has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1866.
“This is a holiday for some, and I felt like just bringing it and showing what I can do with my platform and for these kids, it means a lot to me, and I know it means lot to them as well,” said Desmond King, who played at Iowa from 2013 to 2016 and is now a member of the NFL’s Houston Texans. “It’s always good to do stuff for people that are coming up behind you.”
Fellow Detroit native and former Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston volunteered at Saturday’s camp. Golston was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft and was in Iowa City to finish packing his belongings.
“When I grew up, I was going to a lot of camps like this and seeing older guys from the city of Detroit,” Golston said. “It was just nice to see that other people actually cared and took time out of their day to come and do something free of charge to help other people.”
The fact that Saturday’s camp was held on Juneteenth made it more special for Golston.
“That was just a blessing in disguise,” Golston said. “It just timed up like that.”
City High has a special place in Desmond King’s heart because it’s where his younger brother, Devon, graduated from in 2017.
Desmond’s King was a 17-year old senior at Detroit’s East Village Prep Academy when his older brother, Armon, then 22, was shot and killed on Sept. 18, 2012.
Armon’s death devastated the family, and Yvette Powell figured the best way to cope was to bring the family together.
“He wanted to be closer to his brother, and I had lost my second son, and the baby wanted to come here,” Yvette Powell said. “So we all came here.”
Devon attended Saturday’s camp, along with several volunteers from Detroit. You could hear the pride in his voice as he talked about his big brother, and about being a Little Hawk.
“It was a great time seeing him enjoying his life while I was doing my work, too,” Devon said of living with Desmond in high school.
Saturday’s camp was held slightly more than a year after multiple former Iowa black players accused the football program of racial disparities.
Desmond King and former Iowa defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson both returned to Iowa City shortly after the accusations were made last summer in order to get a closer look, and to see if they could be of some assistance.
“This is a special place for us,” Desmond King said. “This is where we spent four years of our life here and it changed us. So coming back to see that was kind of disturbing because we didn’t have nothing like that when I was in college.
“It was very disturbing to see, especially when you’re far away. So we wanted to come back and find out what was going on and see what we could do to help.”
And now a year later, Desmond King has returned to Iowa City to help in another way.
He appreciates all the coaches and mentors in Detroit, and with the Iowa football program, who helped pave the way for his success, so Desmond wanted to give back to a community, and to a school, that means a lot to him, and to his family.
“This was a very significant part of my life to help me get where I’m at now,” Desmond King said. “It just feels good to come back here and contribute to the community.”
Desmond King had the word “coach” inscribed on the back of his Desmond King camp t-shirt, and he talked about the significance of that word.
“I can use my platform and teach them what I’ve learned throughout the years and that’s what being a coach is,” Desmond King said. “It’s being someone away from home that’s going to influence you and show you the right way and direct you the right way.”
Mitch Moore is preparing for his first season as the City High football coach, and he was thrilled and honored to be a part of Desmond King’s camp.
“It’s so neat for a guy like Desmond King to give back to the youth in this community,” Moore said. “The game of football has done so much for Desmond and his family, and he wants to show these kids, and all youth communities, the importance about what football can provide you.
“Obviously, he’s just such an inspiration for so many in this community, what he’s done and how he continues to handle himself. And so for him to come back into our high school, a high school that means a lot to him, it’s just such a neat deal, his family and all the volunteers they brought from Detroit.”
King’s football camp was held a week after former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney returned to Iowa City to honor City High’s 1970 conference championship team for which he was a star player. McCarney also played football at Iowa and was an assistant coach under Hayden Fry.
“What a neat deal for the community of City High, and for our high school and our program to have back-to-back weekends with coach McCarney and now Desmond King,” Moore said. “I think one of the things that we wanted to do right away was just get this energy back. Great admiration for Desmond and his whole family that this means so much to them and they come back and helps us out.”
And while there is plenty that is wrong with our society right now, the good in people still outweighs the bad. That was my take after having attended Saturday’s camp and seeing all the looks of joy on the faces of not just the campers, but also on the faces of Desmond King and Chauncey Golston.
To watch them interact with the kids on Saturday was encouraging, and a reminder that giving back to a community means a great deal.
King took about five minutes to speak with the media at the end of Saturday’s first session. And as he spoke, the campers waited to get his autograph, or just to speak with him. By the end of the interview, the campers had moved closer to King and you could see the look of excitement on their faces.
This was a great event for so many reasons.
It was held on day a major significance, and by one of the greatest players in the history of Iowa football whose life was changed by the four years he spent as a Hawkeye.
Thank you, Desmond King, Yvette Powell and Chauncey Golston for creating a nice diversion, and for giving back to a community that will benefit from your kindness.