NFL legends host Malibu youth football clinic

Last Thursday at Malibu Bluffs Park, the NFL and EA Sports hosted a youth football clinic promoting healthy habits. In appreciation for the city's hospitality, former San Francisco 49er Roger Craig (far left), current NFL star Donnie Edwards (far right), and representatives from EA Sports and the NFL presented a check for $50,000 to Malibu Mayor Andy Stern (holding check) and members of the City Council for the growth and development of the Legacy Park Project.

NFL legends Roger Craig and Donnie Edwards taught football skills and healthy habits to hundreds of Malibu and Los Angeles area elementary and middle school students last Thursday at Malibu Bluffs Park. The free football clinic was sponsored by the EA Sports video game Madden NFL ‘10 and the NFL Play 60 program, which encourages youth to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.

The children were guided to six different areas on the field, where they learned various football fundamentals. At certain stations, the students would watch clips from Madden NFL ‘10, which showed them how to properly execute several difficult football maneuvers, such as the spin move. Craig could be heard instructing the children to keep their “elbows up” when receiving a handoff from the quarterback, and to use his trademark high-step running style. Edwards was kept busy throwing footballs to the young players.

“Donnie and Roger are good role models for these kids,” Peter O’Reilly, vice president of marketing for the NFL, said. “They are out of the league, but they are still in ridiculous shape. You look at these kids and they light up, engage and pay attention to these guys. Even if the kids do not aspire to play in the NFL, they can see how important it is to be active and healthy.”

In addition to the football instruction, each child received a free T-shirt, as well autographs from Craig and Edwards. The NFL paid to transport the students, many of whom came from LA’s BEST, an after-school enrichment program.

Craig, a running back, won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. In 1985, he became the first running back to gain more than 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season, and, in 1988, he was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. In his retirement, Craig has run seven marathons, still runs 40 miles a week and hosts the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. He stresses the importance of children being healthy.

“We need to keep our kids fit,” Craig said. “The story with America is that our kids are not fit and watch too much television, so it is good that the NFL is doing this program to keep kids motivated to go outside and play.”

Edwards, a linebacker who went to UCLA, played for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, and is currently a free agent. In 2006, he became the ninth player in NFL history to accumulate 20 career sacks and interceptions. When he made it to the NFL, he learned he had grass allergies. Rather than giving up, Edwards kept playing by always wearing long sleeves and gloves.

“Whatever it is, whether it be allergies or something else in life, you have to keep moving forward. You cannot let it slow you down. You have to use it to motivate you to get where you want to go,” Edwards said.

Despite the heat, Edwards and Craig taught the students with the same enthusiasm at the end of the day as at the beginning.

“I had guys coming out and spending time with me [when I was younger], so it is nice to have an opportunity to give back, hopefully hit home with a message and make a difference in a kid’s life,” Edwards said. “It is a cycle. When they get older, maybe they will be in a position to talk to my kids.”

In appreciation of the city’s hospitality, EA Sports and the NFL collaborated to donate $50,000 toward the growth and development of Malibu’s Legacy Park.

“[The donation] is a great help,” Andy Stern, the mayor of the city of Malibu, said. “We are very thankful. We are going to start building Legacy Park very soon, and this contribution is going to put us in great shape to start building the park.”