Last Tuesday, I headed out to Hinkley High School in Aurora to meet WR Brandon Marshall and S Hamza Abdullah who were coming to speak to the youth football players attending the NFL’s Junior Player Development Camp. The 150 youth football players, ages 12-14 and representing schools all over East Denver, were attending the camp for free. The camp provides all of the kids’ equipment and is coached by local volunteer coaches who receive special NFL training prior to the camp.
As I drove east towards the school from INVESCO Field at Mile High, the weather grew worse. The clouds had darkened and sure enough, as soon as I pulled up to the school–the downpour came. Brandon, Hamza and I made a mad dash to the football stadium and tried to stay dry under the shelter of the bleachers. The plan had been to have Brandon and Hamza participate in the camp by assisting with various drills. Obviously, we were going to need a new plan — I just hoped that Brandon and Hamza would be up for sticking it out regardless of the nasty weather.
When the rain-soaked football players came trudging off the field, they were split into two smaller groups and Brandon and Hamza each took a group and gave an impromptu motivational talk. While the kids shivered and tried to stay dry, it was great to watch their faces light up as Brandon and Hamza began to speak. For not having anything prepared, both did an outstanding job of really connecting with the kids and speaking from the heart (not to mention staying focused amid the loud thunder and lightning) After speaking both players patiently answered questions for the next 20 minutes.
As their time with the kids wrapped up both guys hung around for some time to shake hands and talk one-on-one with several of the kids. An hour or so after arriving, Brandon and Hamza (now both soaked as well) left the school but the message delivered that day of perseverance, education, and hard work will remain with the kids that were there for a long time to come. What should have been a depressing day because of the lousy weather had become an inspirational day for a lot of young football players that were reminded by Brandon and Hamza of the extremely bright futures they have ahead.