henri-crockett_web.jpgAs a child growing up in Pompano Beach, Henri Crockett got bullied and picked on because of his size. Always big for his age, when he was 7 he came to detest playing little league football because, although big in stature, at heart he was just a kid and hated being ridiculed.

Young Henri felt so humiliated that he decided against playing football, until his elder brother Zack convinced him to give it another try during high school. It was different this time. He played so well that he was heavily recruited by several colleges and ended up at Florida State University and, eventually, the National Football League.

But the weight problem didn't go away. In college sports, weight was an issue, Crockett said, and even when he reached the NFL, he recalls, he worried over his weight and skipped meals every Thursday night before the Friday weigh-in, because extra pounds meant money deducted from his paycheck.

"People don't realize the NFL is so strict with weight," said Crockett, who ended his pro football career with the Minnesota Vikings in 2005.

It seemed no matter what, Crockett couldn't escape the issue of his weight. Recently, he decided to do something about it — and to help others who want to lose weight.

Crockett and a partner, Stephen Gurowitz, interior designer and owner of Interiors by Stephen G., opened Dr. G's Weight Loss and Wellness in the upscale Miami-Dade city of Doral, with plans for three more soon, likely in Kendall in Miami-Dade, west Miramar in Broward County and West Palm Beach in Palm Beach County.

Crockett said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to tackle the weight issue head on. Through his clinic, he hopes to offer pro athletes, former athletes and ordinary people an opportunity to shed pounds safely under a unique regimen and a doctor's care.

The program used at the center was developed in 1994 by Dr. Charles Goldsmith as a physician-supervised medical weight loss program with a four-pronged approach to fitness: appetite, metabolism, diet and habits. It is offered around the world and claims to have helped more than 70,000 people lose more than a million pounds.

Franchise opportunities for prospective business owners have been offered since August 2010 and 29 franchises are located in South Florida.

"This is an opportunity to help prolong lives because many people pass these issues down to their kids. We're just another piece of the puzzle that's fighting the fight against obesity but we're doing it the correct way," Crockett said at the opening of the center at 11402 NW 41st St.

More than 100 well-wishers turned out for the opening, including Doral's Vice Mayor Michael DiPietro, who said he has shed 20 pounds on the program.

Crockett and his brother Zack, also a former NFL player, are known for contributing to worthy causes in South Florida. Crockett presented a check for $1,000 to the American Cancer Society during the opening of his weight-loss center.

He is also inviting youth to participate in the ninth Annual Crockett Foundation Life Skills and Football Camp, featuring NFL players, free lunch and skills and games, slated for July 9, at the Pompano Beach Civic Center, 1801 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach. The camp is free and is open to boys and girls aged 6 to 16. For more information Call 954-200-1924.

Daphne Taylor may be reached at daphnetaylor_49@hotmail.com.

Photo: Henri Crockett