By Matthew Asher
Back in 1993 Charles Barkley starred in the infamous “I am not a role model” Nike commercial. While many people misunderstood the point of the commercial, Charles was not saying athletes can’t be role models, but rather saying that parents and teachers should take initiative. Barkley obviously knows that kids look up to athletes and would give just about anything to meet one of their hometown heroes. For kids throughout Atlanta today, that’s exactly what the Falcons did.
Collaborating with the United Way, every NFL team will be taking part of the Hometown Huddle, a program designed to get NFL players involved in their local community. While every NFL team is doing Hometown Huddle, the Atlanta Falcons are the only team that had the entire roster made available for the program.
The Falcons players went out in groups to various parts of the community, including elementary schools, grocery stores and even surprised some Rise Up Atlanta volunteers at Books for Africa, but probably the biggest hit of the day was at Rowland Elementary School in Stone Mountain. The children there were informed they were getting a surprise, but they had no way of knowing they’d be meeting some of their favorite Atlanta Falcons.
Julio Jones, Todd McClure, Ray Edwards, Stephen Nicholas, Justin Blalock, Jacquizz Rodgers and Kevin Cone all came into the school’s gym sporting their Falcons jerseys and proceeded to exercise with the kids as part of the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, an project designed to get all children at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has his own activity “Folleyball” on the official website.
While at Rowland Elementary, each Falcon worked in a station in the gym where the kids rotated from station to station working on various physical welfare fundamentals. This included push-ups, sit-ups and proper stretching techniques. And yes, each Falcon made sure the kids spent all 60 minutes exercising during their session.
Rowland Elementary principal Roberta Walker made sure she stopped in the gym to see the reaction of her students while working out with the Falcons. “It was great to have the Falcons at our school and have them work on health activities and share with the boys and girls,” Walker said. “They see the Falcons on television and they were very excited to see them up close and have a real life experience with them. The players are helping instill the value of physical activity and being active in the children and we’re so proud to have them with us today.”
The Falcons didn’t just donate their time today. Also in collaboration with the United Way, many boxes of sporting equipment were donated to the school for the kids to use which includes jump ropes, balls, stopwatches and whistles.
When the hour was finished, the Falcons left and the kids went to their next class, everyone was out of breath. The Falcons didn’t admit it, but exercising with a bunch of kids for an hour nonstop may be another wrinkle in the conditioning program coach Mike Smith may want to use in the future. We all know every other school in Atlanta would love a repeat performance.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.