LOS ANGELES — For elementary or middle school students, meeting a professional athlete can be a rewarding experience, one that is likely to stay long into until adulthood.
The giddiness, smiles and nervous chuckling of more than 900 students attending the American Heart Association and NFL Play 60 Challenge event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on May 5, illustrate the point.
The focus of the two-hour event was to increase the awareness of students about getting engaged in some kind of fitness activity for at least 60 minutes day. The benefit of this for the students was learning more about healthy alternatives. And getting to meet National Football League players up close and personal was like icing on the cake.
The students from the 17 Los Angeles County schools — public and private — went along with the opportunity of meeting members of the Los Angeles Rams.
Guard Jamon Brown, defensive backs Mike Jordan and Cody Davis, tight end Tyler Higbee, kicker Greg Zuerlein and offensive lineman Demetrius Rhaney assisted the students in the 40-yard dash, ladder drill, football toss and jump rope, among other activities.
Former Rams from the original Los Angeles days like George Farmer, Harold Jackson and Doug Smith also were on hand for the festivities.
Brown, who has participated in the NFL Play 60 Challenge before, said this was a great chance for the players to involve themselves more with the local community.
“I’ve done a Play 60 (Challenge) before. … Just getting out in the community, being able to give back to the kids is something that is very important to me,” Brown said. “[It’s] important to all the players that come out and attend these kids of events, just to kind of inspire the kids, that if they keep pushing, they can make any of their dreams come true.”
Brown, who was drafted by the Rams in the third round in the 2015 NFL Draft, said getting young people active is vitally important.
“This Play 60 experience has to be very fun,” Brown said. “We have about 17 schools out here, about a thousand kids, and we’re out here to get the kids active and getting them moving around and making sure that they get at least 60 minutes a day of activity.”
After a couple of short introductory speeches, the Coliseum quickly turned into a collage of white and blue blur for the next couple of hours as students ran around with enthusiastic zeal from one activity station to another. The jumbo slides were the most popular stations, but students took part in every activity presented to them.
That was the intent of the event, said Kathy Young, vice president of youth market for the American Heart Association. Because of the growing alarm about childhood obesity, Young said it is imperative for students to know at an early age the benefits of exercise and eating healthy.
“This is where they start to develop those habits,” Young said. “You’ve got a third of American children who are overweight or are obese, so when we need to turn that around, turn that tide around, we’re looking to really educate them about eating right, being active and being tobacco-free. That’s the message that we’re trying to get in at a young age for them to continue that and really cut down on those obesity rates down and keep their hearts strong.”
Seventh-grade student Amber Nash, who is a huge Rams fan, said she had a blast at the event.
“I just want to thank the American Heart Association and the LA Rams for having me here,” Nash said. “It’s been really fun to do all these fun activities and I really enjoyed it.”
The biggest moment for Nash was getting the players to sign her Rams T-shirt.
“I really like having them sign my back,” said Nash. “I’m just so grateful to do that for me.”
Madison Fort, a seventh-grade student at Kelly Myers Middle School, was just as excited
“It’s just so fun to get the chance and the opportunity to be here with all the Rams players, and be able to be chosen to do all of these fun activities with everyone else,” she said.