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Ashley Fox: Raheem Brock helps Philadelphia's children

Bernard Hopkins' theory on why few make it off the streets of North Philadelphia at first sounds cold, but the man speaks from experience.

Bernard Hopkins' theory on why few make it off the streets of North Philadelphia at first sounds cold, but the man speaks from experience.

"Some have to be sacrificed for others to survive," Hopkins told me recently. "Every fish that's being hunted in the water by fishermen ain't going to get caught. Some are. Some not. That's just the way it go.

"So my whole thing is that I would like to see more percentage come out of North Philly or the inner city, but I know it's impossible. It's impossible for everybody to be successful, for everybody to be law-abiding citizens. If everybody would be law-abiding citizens, it'd be extremely boring."

Raheem Brock sees Hopkins' point.

Brock, who grew up in Germantown, went to Murrell Dobbins Tech, then spent four years on the football team at Temple. The Eagles selected Brock late in the 2002 draft, long after they picked Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown and Brian Westbrook, then released him a few months later. He has been a productive member of the Indianapolis Colts ever since.

Hopkins, Aaron McKie, Marvin Harrison, Rasheed Wallace and Dawn Staley are among the successful athletes who came from North Philly and still call Philadelphia home.

Like those who have an intimate relationship with the inner city, Brock is trying to make life better for the children for whom violence and drugs and guns are a part of everyday life. In essence, he wants more fish to swim.

Last year, Brock started Brock's Kids Inc., a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping youth in Philadelphia, and by extension, Indianapolis. On June 7-8, Brock will host his second celebrity weekend to raise money and awareness for the foundation. He will visit Fox Chase Elementary School and Shriners Hospital for Children, and will host a football clinic, a bowling tournament, a panel discussion for local student-athletes to be held at Dobbins, and a party at WXPN's World Cafe Live.

Brock, who will turn 30 on June 10, said he expected several teammates, and a few Eagles, to attend. For NFL players, this is the season for charity weekends.

Brock hopes to give kids proof that they can rise out of their environment and make it. He signed with the Colts during training camp in 2002, and started 48 consecutive regular-season games at left defensive tackle from 2003 to 2005. For 2006, he moved to right defensive tackle, starting 20 games, including Indianapolis' Super Bowl victory over Chicago.

Last season, Brock's streak of consecutive games played ended at 77, and he missed the Colts' final four regular-season games with an injury. He started in Indianapolis' playoff loss to San Diego.

"I know how tough it is growing up in the inner city, Philadelphia especially, with all the violence and stuff going on," Brock said. "I just wanted to give back to the community. It's tough being in the inner city. The kind of kids we work with, it's just tough coming out of that city trying to be successful and reach your goals. We like to help keep kids motivated and going in a positive direction, so they can get where they want to be."

The 6-foot-4 Brock spoke softly, almost in a whisper, about the distractions and the forces that cause kids to choose different paths. He has seen it before, the trouble and turbulence, the choices made and opportunities missed.

"There's a lot of things that will bring you down, a lot of negative things going on in the inner city that people want to get you involved in, like maybe selling drugs," Brock said during a break from Indianapolis' recent mandatory veteran minicamp. "People are just trying to find money. That's an easy way to get money, and that will get you to redirect from what you should be doing to something negative, just because it's an easier way.

"We try to tell them that there is something there at the end of that road, even though it's hard and it looks like it's hard to reach. If you still work hard at it, you can achieve it, and that's the better way to go. But there are just a lot of distractions."

The distractions certainly don't stop once adolescence yields to adulthood, especially for a professional athlete. In the era of camera phones and YouTube, those athletes with half a clue are careful about where they go and with whose company they keep. The spotlight isn't just bright on game days. It's every day.

And trouble isn't hard to find. Just look at Harrison, whom police questioned about an April 29 shooting near his garage and car wash on 25th and Thompson Streets, although they have said he is not a suspect.

"North Philly is tough," Brock said. "It's tough to have his restaurant and be a well-known athlete and to have it in North Philly. He also does a lot of real estate, and he's trying to build up Philly, too. So, I mean, there's a lot of jealous people out there in the world."

Next weekend, Brock will concern himself with the younger people out there. He's not promising all the fish will swim, but Brock would like to think he can at least help one or two find their way upstream.