Rams Continue Support of United Way

October 18, 2008

Rams Continue Support of United Way
Rams Continue Support of United Way
Rams Continue Support of United Way

By Nick Wagoner

It wasn’t quite ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ but anyone on Scott Air Force Base and in the general vicinity of Chris Draft on October 14 might have thought otherwise.

As one of two Hometown Huddle captains, Draft and teammate Trent Green spent the day at the military base in Shiloh, Illinois educating kids on the base about the importance of health and fitness.  

“There has to be that excitement for the kids to get them to want to exercise,” Draft said. “It’s not just about telling a kid to go outside and run around as it is encouraging  parents and adults to say ‘Hey, let’s go play catch. Let’s go kick the ball. Let’s get outside,' whatever it is, but be interactive with the kids and help them get that exercise.”

Unlike many of the numerous other charitable initiatives in which the Rams and their captains are involved, Hometown Huddle is done every season as part of a league-wide initiative held in conjunction with the United Way.

In most instances, there’s a designated day in which all 32 teams have representatives in the community working on whatever the chosen point of emphasis is for that year.

This year, that initiative is called ‘Play 60,’ and focuses on combating childhood obesity by teaching children a variety of ways to get out and exercise for 60 minutes every day.

Green says the league-wide initiative is a way for everyone to see what the players are doing with their free time and though there’s plenty of focus on the negative, it’s a good way for the fans to see that there’s more to the NFL than those less than positive issues.

“There’s a major emphasis placed on the negative that happens in the league,” Green said. “The sensationalism of all the negative stuff makes for more interesting news. But the vast majority of the guys in this locker room do a lot of good stuff and the same goes for around the league. There are a lot of guys around the league doing good work.”

Green and Draft, joined by other Rams, cheerleaders, off-duty military personnel and staff members from the Scott Air Force Base Youth Center, took about 200 kids, ages 6 to 16 on a three-step tour of ways to not only be active, but to have fun while staying active.

The children in attendance went through the stations, each with a different emphasis and a different spin on ‘playing 60.’

At one station, Draft led a group working with a program called HopSports. The HopSports training system uses television technology to provide kids interactive opportunities to exercise and in this case, much of that exercise came in the form of a glorified dance class led by Draft. While Draft might play football for a living, he said it was important to show the kids that football isn’t the only outlet for exercise.

“It’s important we are able to show that 60 minutes of exercise doesn’t necessarily mean 60 minutes of football,” Draft said. “It can be 60 minutes of dance, or 60 minutes of dance where I’m the instructor. I had some moves and they captured that on film. It’s to show there’s a lot of different ways to get that exercise. If you ask most football players what they were doing when they were 10 years old they were doing a multitude of things. They weren’t just playing football.”

The second station gave kids an opportunity to switch the focus to football as receiver Derek Stanley on his bullhorn shouted instructions to the kids. At the end of that station, the kids showed off their newly formed dance moves by working in a touchdown celebration.

The third station was Green’s area of expertise. Widely regarded as one of the classiest and most respected athletes in town, Green and rookie offensive lineman John Greco focused on mental health, talking to the kids about character building and stressing life skills.

“We kind of had the boring station,” Green said, laughing. “There was the football station, the dance station and John and I were just talking to them about character. We wanted to talk to them about those things, about the choices they make in their lives, how it influences not only them and their family, but people outside of their families and just about making good choices and being good people. Not only being involved from a health standpoint so they feel better about themselves but you can kind of have an effect to where you can influence other people by doing those right things.”

In a place where normal every day heroes work and regularly are asked to leave their families behind, the experience of visiting the base meant more to Green, Draft and the rest of the visitors than the standard community program.

For every kid with a parent overseas, it was a chance to escape the worries that go with that reality. But it was a learning experience for the visitors, also.

“Having grown up here, I know how much Scott Air Force base means to the area and to go over there and hear the stories of what different family members are going through, it’s not that you ever forget, but you don’t realize the impact it has on their lives,” Green said. “For us to be over there and maybe help them forget about it for a little bit, let the kids have some fun, I thought it was great.”

What wasn’t so great, were Draft’s dance moves. Despite his insistence to the contrary, others in attendance report Draft could use some fine tuning.

“You might see me on Dancing with the Stars next,” Draft said. “You might have to see me there.”

And you might see about 200 kids near a military base in your area dancing right along with him.