TULALIP It was bone fide native pride last week as NFL greats took a hand teaching youth about life, leadership and reaching their potential.
The Team-Works Sports and Leadership summer camp led by Seattle running back Mack Strong hosted members of the Muckleshoot, Nez Perce and other tribes from around the country.
Strongs wife Zoe is a Nez Perce member and was the leader and mastermind behind a year-long program at Tulalip Elementary where students get extra help with both athletics and academics. Sports clinics on Saturday mornings helped them hone their chops and on-line tutors helped them with their grades.
Last week saw a flurry of activities as NFL sports greats threw the ball and some advice to the tribal kids for three days of clinics and seminars. There was more than just a scrimmage on the menu and for good reason, according to Strong. The 14-year fullback convinced friends from his collegiate playing days to visit, as well as current Seattle Seahawks Seneca Wallace, Jordan Babineau and D. J. Hackett. Ian Scott of the Philadelphia Eagles flew in from his New Jersey home to help his pal. He said he was happy to make the trip and recalled hearing some sobering stories of the challenges native kids face in and out of school.
You get a chance to help people out, Scott said as rain began falling during warm-ups at Marysvilles Totem Middle School. This has been unique experience to help out Native American kids. Its been great.
One of the main goals was to get the teens to talk about what they wanted to achieve in life, Strong said, adding that the biggest fear the players heard during their rap sessions was that kids are mostly afraid of failing. The good news was that they were comfortable admitting their fears to the NFL greats and their own peers, and to discuss the challenges they face.
Last Friday wasnt a good day to complain about spoiled professional athletes as Strong and several of his college and professional friends led scrimmages for about 50 native kids at Asberry Field. As thunder sounded in the distance and a steady rain fell, Hackett tossed warm-ups with teens on the grass.
The third-year receiver said it was fun to support the Strongs and their work with native kids.
The main thing is they are having fun, which is important at their age, but youre also teaching them some skills they can take with them, Hackett said. Its a great thing to do.
Before the games of two-hand touch started, Strong led the crowd singing Happy Birthday to one of the players, before telling them all that he and his peers have gotten a huge reward from working with the middle schoolers during the camp.
And as the rain came down the pros hit the field, leading multiple matches on a short field. Tulalip David Enick was a top performer, sacking Strong for a safety and then catching two passes, one for a touchdown.
It felt pretty good, Enick said of his two-hand tackle.
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