When it comes to community service, some NFL players know no off season. Just days before the 2015 Pro Bowl, some of the league’s top talent traded in the turf for terracotta and stadium lights for desert sun as part of the NFL PLAY 60 Community Blitz coordinated by Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix, Arizona.
Settled between a slew of mountains and military helicopters, over 20 NFL leaders were spotted digging in the trenches with the Arizona National Guard and doing jumping jacks with eager 8-year-olds from around the Phoenix community while being cheered on by NFL mascots and cheerleaders. Talk about a diverse group.
Cardinals’ defensive end Calais Campbell, who spoke on behalf of United Way, said he was overwhelmed but not surprised by the showing from fellow NFL superstars.
“This is what it’s all about. This is the community I’m proud to be part of,” the 28-year-old Pro Bowler said. “I can’t thank these guys enough for joining me today to support Arizona, and thank you to United Way for always making it easy for us to give back.”
But what a 6’8”, 300-pound lineman considers “easy” may not seem that way to most. Lugging bags of concrete and digging into granite is hardly effortless work, but the players didn’t hesitate to jump right in and get their million-dollar hands dirty.
“I’ve never poured cement before – this is awesome!” Campbell said, echoing the youthful enthusiasm of NFL PLAY 60 and proving that you really are never too old to play.
While the kids had their chance to work out with their NFL heroes this afternoon, the National Guard will feel the players’ presence whenever they go for a run or strength train on their new Legacy Fitness Trail. The mile-long course, which took three days and about 100 volunteers to complete, was the product of a successful partnership between the NFL, USAA and United Way.
“This really was a team effort,” Francisco Avalos of UWSV, who spent about 100 hours coordinating and executing the project, said. “We’re so honored to be part of these types of things, and it’s great to see these guys come out and support it.”
For three hours Sunday night, the Pro Bowl players will shine in the national spotlight, but their work under the Arizona sun will stick with the Phoenix community for years to come.
Written by Michele Danno