Douglas brothers give back to community at Christmas

By Doug Gorman

dgorman @news-daily,com

It wasn't that long ago, Harry and Toney Douglas were star athletes at Jonesboro High School.

Dribbling and shooting the Jonesboro boys basketball team to some of the most successful years in school history, together, the brothers formed one of the most dangerous basketball duos in the Georgia, helping lead the Cardinals all the way to the Class AAAA state championship game.

Harry also made plenty of noise on the football field, turning into one of the state's top high school wide receivers.

In addition to creating a trophy case full of memories for Jonesboro fans, their jerseys have also been retired.

Now, they have realized their dreams of becoming professional athletes.

Harry is a wide receiver with the Atlanta Falcons, Toney is in his rookie season with the New York Knicks in the NBA.

Tuesday afternoon, the Douglas family helped spread a little Christmas cheer at the first Douglas family Feed the Hungry celebration.

The event was held inside the Jonesboro High School Gymnasium, site of some of the brother's greatest athletic achievements.

In addition to a hot meal, hundreds of Southern Crescent residents were treated to haircuts and health screenings, courtesy of local business who pitched in and helped.

"It is important to give back," Harry said. "I never really wanted anything for Christmas. I was always taught it was important to help others."

Because of his NBA obligations, Toney was absent from the event, but the Falcons and Knicks donated merchandise, and the NBA rookie and Clayton County's All-time leading scorer was there in spirit.

"When you are looking at Harry, you are looking at Toney," their father, Harry III said. "They are close ,and I am so proud of them."

The Douglas family wants to make this a Southern Crescent Christmas tradition.

"We can't think of a better time than at Christmas to do something like this," the younger Harry Douglas and current Falcon said.

The Douglas brothers' principles about giving back were planted early in their childhood by their father and mother Stephanie.

The message their parents sent was there was more to being an athlete than accolades achieved on the field.

"My brother and I want to make this bigger and bigger each year," Harry said. "If we have to move to a bigger location we will."

The athletic road was paved with plenty of dividends for the Jonesboro graduates, including college scholarships.

Harry, who is one year older than Toney, traded in his basketball sneakers for football cleats after high school, turning into a star wide receiver at the University of Louisville, including a standout performance for the Cardinals in the 2007 Orange Bowl.

When he graduated from high school, Toney packed his bags for Auburn and a college basketball scholarship, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors before transferring to Florida State where he became one of the ACC's top point guards.

It's all led to bright futures in the pros.

Harry is a member of the Atlanta Falcons, and even though he has been on the injured list this year, the wide receiver and kick returner has a bright future with the local pro football team.

Toney was a second round pick of the New York Knicks and is in the middle of his rookie season.

Their Dad was probably the biggest influence in their lives, not just teaching them how to play the games, but so much about life.

"We couldn't think of a better place than Jonesboro to hold this event," , their father said. "This school means so much to both Harry and Toney. They always come back here when they are home."

Other men have also remained an important part of the Douglas brothers' lives.

Former Jonesboro coach Mack Cain, now the AD and athletic director at Northgate High School, was the basketball coach when the Douglas brothers were stealing all the headlines for the Cardinals.

"They are like sons to me," Cain said. "They have kept in touch over the years, and that means a lot to me. They are special young men."

Cain wants his current team to learn from the Douglas brothers.

"I brought my seniors to Jonesboro to volunteer," he said. "I think it is important for them to see the importance of doing something like this."

Current Jonesboro coach and athletic director Dan Maehlman, was an assistant on the Cardinals team during the Douglas years and has a special bond with the local pro athletes.

"It's nice to see them give back. They are great athletes, but they are better people." he said.

Harry continues to rehabilitate his injured leg and hopes to be on the field next year.

In the meantime., he's already thinking about life after football. He hopes to put his political science degree to good use one day.

That includes law school. This winter, he plans to work in the NFL office in New York as part of an internship.

Toney's, who has a degree in sociology from Florida State, is in his first season in the NBA continues to progress.

In 22 contests, he is averaging 6 points per contest.