Oct 25, 2013, 1:36 PM PST
Fresh off a bye week, the Oakland Raiders needed a little tuneup for the Pittsburgh Steelers, so they stopped by Westlake Middle School in Oakland on Tuesday and competed with some youngsters.
To make things interesting, fullback Marcel Reece and running back Darren McFadden each captained a team of students and started at quarterback for their respective teams. Safety Tyvon Branch also led a team against wide receiver Jacoby Ford and cornerback Taiwan Jones.
While competition was stiff between the Raiders, the message was the most important thing, and the pro football players got their point across loud and clear. The players stopped by the school as part of a United Way’s “Hometown Huddle” initiative. Reece is the Raiders’ United Way representative and he was happy to have so many of his teammates join him to promote the importance of exercise, healthy living, and studying.
“We’re all on the same page with this stuff and it’s great,” Reece said. “I mean, how many times do these kids get these superstars out here with them and little old me.”
The Pro Bowl fullback was trying to downplay how much his presence meant to some of the underserved youth he came into contact with, but the group at Westlake Middle School could hardly contain their excitement. One kid even slid across the blacktop making a diving catch then popped right back up and re-joined the huddle. Upon seeing this, Reece pulled the kid aside to make sure he was OK, then shook his hand and offered him some words of wisdom.
“Marcel does a great job with coming out here and giving back to the community,” McFadden said. “I’m very honored to be out here alongside him.”
It’s impossible to tell which teams won that day. They were zinging the ball all over the yard and having a great time. The true winners were the kids in attendance that got to hang with some of their favorite NFL players and heroes.
“We want these kids to know that someone coming from where they are has been successful and it can be them,” Reece said.
That message is much easier to convey when it is professed to them by living and breathing proof that their goals can be achieved.
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