NFL legends taught football fundamentals and healthy habits to hundreds of Malibu and Los Angeles area elementary and middle school students Wednesday at Bluffs Park. The free football clinic was sponsored by the EA Sports video game “Madden NFL ’11” and the NFL Play 60 program, which encourages youth to be active for at least 60 minutes per day.
Kaitlyn Connors, who graduated from Malibu High School in June, began the festivities by singing the national anthem. After that, the children were guided to four different areas on the field, where they learned football skills such as throwing a perfect spiral. The children then scrimmaged so that they could practice the fundamentals that they were taught by the coaches and professional football players.
“I have so much fun doing this,” Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Kirk Morrison said. “When I do these clinics, I think back to when I was little, running around and doing drills.”
Morrison taught the children about the importance of hard work. He was only a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he has led the Oakland Raiders in tackles in each of his five seasons in the NFL. “Whatever you want to do, do it to your best,” Morrison said. “You are not always going to be the best person on the team. I was not the best athlete, but I worked hard at it and pushed through.”
Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson encouraged the children to pick up their intensity during drills and continue to be active after the clinic ended.
“It is not fun for anybody to be overweight, even players,” Dickerson said. “We try to blame it on fast foods, but I do not believe that all that is true. I think a lot of it has to do with not doing stuff. Kids like to sit in front of the PlayStations, but they need to get out and be active.”
Dickerson, the NFL single-season rushing leader, also stressed the importance of education to the children.
“All kids want to play sports and go on to play pro football or basketball if they possibly can, but not every kid will be able to do that,” Dickerson said. “Education will take you a lot further than any sports career ever could.”
In addition to Morrison and Dickerson, Houston Texans wide receiver David Anderson and former Minnesota Vikings strong safety Robert Griffith were on hand to teach the children.
Many of the children recognized the NFL players because EA Sports uses their likeness in the Madden NFL Football video game. The video game also helped a lot of them understand football terminology.
“Our goal is to make the game as authentic as possible,” said Anthony Stevenson, the Senior Product Manager of Madden NFL Football at EA Sports. “I think it makes sense for young kids to learn how to run routes and read defenses by playing Madden.”
In appreciation of the city’s hospitality and to ensure that the message of an active lifestyle spreads, EA Sports and the NFL collaborated to donate $50,000 to the City of Malibu to develop youth sports and fitness programs.
“The money is going to be used in our parks and recreation department in different ways, perhaps scholarships, to fight obesity in children any way that we can,” said City Councilmember Laura Rosenthal. “We want to get more kids involved in our camps and sports programs.”