Mohamed Sanu loves and appreciates South Brunswick.
It’s where he developed into a football star and carved a path to his current status as an NFL wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons.
That’s why Sanu, a 2008 graduate of South Brunswick High School, returns to the area every summer to hold a football camp and help train local players. But in 2019, he wanted to do something different, something charitable.
So on June 27 at Rowland Park, Sanu served as the host to the Sanu’s Crew Celebrity Kickball Game. The evening featured a kickball home run derby, a celebrity kickball game, a food truck and some raffles. All proceeds went to the Embrace Kids Foundation in New Brunswick, which raises money to fight various forms of childhood cancer.
Sanu has been working with Embrace Kids since his three year career at Rutgers University from 2009-2011.
“I’ve been working with them ever since,” Sanu said. “It always resonated with me, what those kids were going through.”
On a hot summer evening, South Brunswick residents turned out for their native son. The fence around the baseball diamond was jam packed with spectators.
On the turf field, the players treated the fans to a baseball style doubleheader. First there was a kickball home run derby featuring local elementary school students. Then there was the main event: the celebrity kickball game pitting Sanu’s Crew, a team of athletes from Sanu’s football life at South Brunswick and Rutgers, versus a lineup of teachers, administrators and police officers from South Brunswick Township.
Sanu’s Crew included two NFL receivers, Sanu and fellow Rutgers alum Kenny Britt, who played for four NFL teams from 2009-2017. The South Brunswick Township club was very clearly the underdog in this mostly fun game that Sanu still wanted to win.
At one point, Sanu told his teammates to tap the ball down the third base line and beat the throw to first. The Crew needed baserunners for a rally. It was a real strategy.
“That’s all we have to do!” Sanu shouted after a tap single down the third base line.
Despite Sanu’s best strategic efforts, though, the South Brunswick team pulled off a major upset with its 11-6 victory. Sanu and his teammates were still all smiles after the contest as they hugged the teachers, administrators and police officers.
South Brunswick High baseball coach C.J. Hendricks organized the local squad in about two weeks. After the game, Sanu hugged Hendricks, looked him right in the eye and thanked him for his help.
“C.J. is the guy, man,” Sanu said. “I definitely appreciate coach Hendricks.”
“I had so much fun,” he added. “They whupped our tail.”
Hendricks was as playfully competitive as Sanu during the game, telling his fielders to move in for one celebrity batter and dropping his own tap hit down the third base line. The coach wore a backwards cap and a wide smile all evening.
“The fact that Mohamed does this speaks volumes about what type of person he is, and what he means to our community,” Hendricks said.
Sanu still plans on holding a football camp later in the summer for local players. He also wants this kickball game to be the First Annual Sanu’s Crew charity event.
“We might do softball or dodgeball next year,” Sanu said, chuckling.
Sanu, 29, is under contract to play for the Falcons again in 2019. The NFC South squad will open training camp in late July.
“Looks great,” he said.