By Randy Dela Cruz, Ho'okele Sports Editor
The NFL Pro Bowl returned to the Aloha State in perhaps the largest gathering of pro football all-stars assembled in one spot.
While many think that the players are just here to compete in the annual event, the athletes also participate in quite a few community outreach events throughout the islands and here on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
On Jan. 22, nearly 20 of the game’s most accomplished players volunteered their time to bring the message of fitness to a selected group of middle school children at Ward Field on JBPHH.
Spreading the message of the league’s fitness program called NFL Play 60, players such as Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Darrelle Revis joined with community volunteers in a mini football camp that got the children up and moving.
In addition, several NFL cheerleaders were also on hand to lead a group of kids through a few of their routines.
Play 60 was initiated by the NFL in 2009 and is prominent during the league’s most important events that includes the Pro Bowl, Super Bowl and the draft, and is supported by many NFL players and coaches year round.
Luck, who is a strong advocate of Play 60, admitted that in this day of modern technology, it’s really important to encourage kids to get out and play for at least 60 minutes each day.
“One, it’s healthy for you,” Luck said. “It’s good to be outside and is there any better state to be outside than Hawaii? And two, it’s fun. I know my favorite memories as a kid were outside with my siblings, friends or waiting for my dad to come home from work to throw the football around or kick a soccer ball or shoot hoops or whatever it was. I always enjoyed that rather than sitting inside.”
Lt. Col. Andy Cruz, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces (HQ PACAF), was on hand to watch his 12-year-old son Brandon participate in the various drill stations spread over Ward Field.
Cruz, who also coaches youth sports, said that he understands the need to keep his children active and always encourages his son to go outside and play.
“It’s making sure he’s active with different sports,” Cruz said. “And he plays outside with the neighborhood kids; that’s important.”
While Cruz said that he doesn’t have a problem with getting Brandon to be active, he appreciated the fact that so many elite athletes of the NFL are spreading the message of fitness.
“We really appreciate them coming out supporting the military,” Cruz acknowledged. “The last two years I’ve been coming out, and it’s just really great and nice for them to come out. I get excited too because I really like sports.”
Luck said that if any parent might be wondering how to get and keep their children moving, he advises them to pick out an activity that they can do with their kids.
The all-star quarterback indicated that if it wasn’t for the loving efforts of his father, he doesn’t know where he would be today.
“Do it with them,” he said. “My sisters, brother and I used to wait for my dad to come home from work and no matter what, he would play with us. Whether it was five or 10 minutes outside, he would throw a baseball or organize a game of Horse. He was always available no matter how stressful the day was (for him). Looking back, I really appreciate it.”