By Mike Stancik
Special to Viva Loudoun
Ashburn (Nov. 14, 2013) – Even though the Washington Redskins were sitting at a 3-6 record last week, you wouldn’t know it from looking around the bubble at Redskins Park on Nov. 12. With 150 kids hailing from four different elementary schools and six current Redskins, there was nothing but smiles as Washington and Play 60 teamed up to host a mini-combine to support physical activity at a young age.
For some of the Redskin players, Tuesday served as a short escape from the harsh reality of a grueling football season.
“The Redskins have an awesome following,” defensive lineman Darryl Tapp said. “I was just happy when I ran into the building and the kids faces just lit up with smiles. It’s a cool feeling to see somebody that you look up to in person, not just in the stands or watching on TV, but really being in an area where they can interact and touch us. It’s a great feeling to be out here. A lot of these kids are in different situations in their life, so you just want to be that red sunshine for them.”
Tapp and other Redskins including Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Josh Wilson, Joshua Morgan, and Niles Paul were in attendance to give back to the community as well as promoting exercise for the young kids. One of the kids, Aboraa Kwarteng from Riverside Elementary in Mount Vernon, couldn’t hide his excitement.
“It means a lot that they come out here to play with us,” Kwarteng explained. “They were asking us how we were doing, having fun with all of us and it’s fun to play with them. It’s so exciting to meet some of the best NFL players.”
Five stations were set up for the event, including: a diet station that teaches kids how to eat healthy, a passing station where kids would run routes, a long jump station, an agility station, and a speed station that included many races between kids and players.
For Young, it’s all about showing the kids the rewarding side of football.
“They need to understand football can be fun too, if you make it,” Young said. “Once you get to this level it’s a business. But as long as you’re having fun and you’re living your dream, just go out and have fun with it. They see us having fun, so automatically they will probably have fun. We have a great time with it.”
Another Riverside student, James Whitridge (an avid Redskins fan), noticed how much fun the players were having with the kids.
“It’s so exciting to meet the players,” Whitridge said. “I got to do so much stuff with them, it’s been really fun.”
Young and Morris have been constant participants in charity events on Tuesdays for the Redskins this fall, and Morris believes it’s important to stay active for the community that has given unconditional support of its home-team.
“It means a lot to be out here,” Morris added. “I come from an underprivileged environment, but I had a lot of opportunities from people. I’m an everyday person, I’m not really a celebrity. I just want to let the kids know that you can be special too, you can be a dream-chaser…The physical part in the season is easy, but the mental part can really wear you out. This is definitely a nice escape from all the intense stuff, and you can still have fun and smile with the kids. When you get an opportunity to escape from that world for just a few hours, it’s great to give back to the fans that have supported our team.”
Joshua Morgan, another consistent participant in charity events, grew up in DC and went to high school at HD Woodson before starring at Virginia Tech. The local product loves to give back to the community that raised him, and provide hope that the students can also capture their dreams.
“We are all big kids just trying to have fun with them,” Morgan said. “I think we sometimes get more out of it, but it just means so much to us because we know the impact we have on the kids. It’s definitely important, this is my hometown, I was raised in DC. Most of these same school buses and uniforms are still around. It definitely means that much more to me. I can show these kids that I made it out and captured my dream, so I just want them to know they can achieve anything if they put their mind to it.