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Editor's note: Clinton Hart is one of the recipients of the American Association of Community Colleges' 2012 Outstanding Alumni Award. They were honored Monday night at the annual AACC convention in Orlando.
Clinton Hart is both a professional football player and a hometown hero.
Not only is Hart a talented athlete, but he is a dedicated volunteer who runs several local charities. Although he played football all over the country and abroad, Hart hasn't forgotten his hometown in Florida and is dedicated to improving its economy and giving local children more opportunities.
A graduate of the College of Central Florida (CF), Hart started as a professional player in the Arena Football League and was awarded Rookie of the Year in 2000. He played in the Arena League for the Tallahassee Thunder and the Tampa Bay Storm before being sent to NFL Europe to play there.
In 2003, Hart’s career received a big boost when he replaced injured Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins for nine games. He made a name for himself during that time, and when Dawkins returned to the Eagles, Hart was picked up by the San Diego Chargers. He played for five seasons as a safety with the team. In 2007, the Chargers recognized him with the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
The moment for which Hart is best remembered is the game-clinching interception of Peyton Manning’s pass during the last play of the Chargers-Colts game in November 2008. The Chargers’ 23-21 win got them into the AFC Championship match, where they faced the New England Patriots. Since 2010, Hart has been playing for the UFL team Omaha Nighthawks.
The other gridiron
Hart is just as proficient at giving back to the community. In 2006, he founded the Clint Hart Foundation for at-risk children, which also sponsors an annual scholarship. For five years, he spent the off-season as a counselor and recreation specialist at the Marion Youth Development Center in Lowell, Fla.
Believing in the power of sports to keep kids motivated, Hart has given back to his high school since 2004 through his Follow Your Hart Football Camps for Youths. He has provided shoes and equipment for the South Sumter High School players, in addition to donating time and other resources.
When working with youths, Hart emphasizes the importance of following dreams and making the right choices. Having grown up in a family that struggled, he has seen firsthand what happens when people make the wrong decisions.
Close to home
Family has always been important to Hart. He had the chance to play football for the University of Central Florida, but turned it down to attend CF to stay close to his family in order to keep an eye on his younger brother.
At CF, Hart majored in cosmetology with plans to become a barber. He still cuts hair occasionally, and notes that barbering is a great way to help people and get to know them.
Hart is also dedicated to improving the economy in his hometown. In 2006, he and his wife, Kelli, renovated a building and opened the Brick House Salon. In 2009, they added a flower business, Lilli’s Flowers & Gifts, across the street. Hart is also a partner in Khaos Customizing, an auto paint and body shop.
In addition, Hart is dedicated to hiring CF graduates for his businesses.
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