Orlando, FL — Pro Bowl week is a celebration of the NFL. It’s a week where the best players in the league, who are voted in by their peers, get a chance to represent their conference in a once in a lifetime fantasy showdown.
Yet, Saturday wasn’t about the players. Saturday wasn’t about the players showing how fast they could run, how hard they could hit or how hard they could throw. It was about the community. In addition, it was an opportunity for the players to give back.
Several pro bowl players went around ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex to participate in several events with military veterans, high schoolers, and children in the Special Olympics to and give these groups of individuals a chance to be up close and personal with some of their favorite players. It also gave players a look at how much these individuals look up to them and how much it means to them to be in their presence.
However, throughout the myriad of events, the players showed that they were just as much as appreciative to meet these people and have the opportunity to give back to them.
During the Wounded Warrior Project Flag Football Game, 50 local veterans were able to play with pro bowlers such as Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks), Danielle Hunter (Minnesota Vikings) and even Kyle Juszczyk (San Francisco 49ers). During the course of the game, the players would come onto the field and lead their teams to victory.
Wilson was all smiles during the event as he took pictures, signed autographs, played catch with the veterans and even threw a touchdown pass the full length of the field to help his team win the game.
Joining him would be Denzel Ward of the Cleveland Browns. Ward, who is participating in his first Pro Bowl, was happy to be able to play with the many men and women who protect the country.
“It means a lot,” he said. “They’re the real warriors and real fighters. I’m just really appreciative of them and glad that I can get out here and hang with them for a little bit.”
Los Angeles Chargers’ defensive end Melvin Ingram III also made an appearance to to the event to sign autographs and show his thanks to those who’ve served. He felt that it was a great way to show how much the NFL cared about the troops.
“It’s been cool. We just want to show them that they matter so much and mean so much to us. So we’re out here to have fun,” said Ingram .
Players would also be seen participating in many other events. Some worked with SafeHouse of Seminole to assemble comfort kits, others packaged 5,000 nutritious meals to donate to a Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and many took part in a football clinic with kids. The special part of it was that even after they finished those projects and events, they stayed to take as many pictures and sign as many autographs as they could.
Washington Redskins’ outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appreciated that the players were able to do something like this and did a great job putting everything into perspective.
“It’s a great experience,” Kerrigan said. “Anytime that
you can come down here, get to meet a lot of great people and do a lot of fun
activities, it’s a great way to cap off the football season.”
“It’s just the people you meet,” he continued. “It’s getting to meet other guys from around the league, getting to meet kids like today and play football with them. It’s people. It’s getting to know a number of different people on a more personal level.”