For a group of Pittsburgh area kids, attending the NFL Play 60 Character Camp at Cupples Stadium on the city's South Side seemed like it was going to be a few days of learning football drills and gaining valuable knowledge of the game. But the lessons learned went far beyond the football field at this diverse camp.
The NFL Play 60 Character Camp is done in conjunction with former Cincinnati Bengals and Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz and the Muñoz Agency, and is part of the NFL's Hispanic outreach initiative. The camp, attended by predominantly Hispanic boys and girls ages 9-13 with little football experience, combines the league's Play 60 values of getting 60 minutes of exercise a day, with USA Football and its FUNdamentals curriculum.
But unlike camps that focus simply on football, this one takes it to the next level, with the importance of character in athletics and life a major focus.
"We use football as a platform, but bring more into it including team building and character traits," said Muñoz. "It is how I was taught as a kid growing up in Southern California."
The two-day noncontact camp was held in six NFL cities last year, but expanded to 12 cities this year, including Pittsburgh. Former Steelers linebacker Jasaon Gildon helped lead instruction at the camp, along wiht area coaches and the Muñoz Foundation staff to teach the fundamentals, as well as share strong messages.
"I still love the game," said Muñoz. "I still love watching and talking about it. I worked a lot of football camps, and if this was football the entire time we wouldn't be traveling around the country to do it. But since we talk about team building, and life skills and character building, it's more enjoyable. The camp is about 50 percent football. It's invaluable. The kids come out learning a lot of football, but learn what it means to go out and exercise, eat well, be a person of integrity, loyalty and responsibility. Those are the things I love."
The hope is the camp gives youth more insight to the game, but also has them walk away with an even greater knowledge of what it takes to be successful in life.
"We have seen the impact, the excitement of the communities," said Muñoz. "It's okay to be successful in whatever area you want to succeed, including if you want to play in the NFL. You should dream big. But that only takes you so far. You have to focus on everything that gets you through life, that is education, character, who you are as a person. It's not what you do, but who you are."
About NFL PLAY 60
Designed to tackle childhood obesity, NFL PLAY 60 brings together the NFL's long-standing commitment to health and wellness with partner organizations. PLAY 60 also is implemented locally, as part of the NFL's in-school, after-school and team-based programs. Since the program was launched in 2007, the NFL has committed more than $250 million to youth health and fitness through programming, grants, and media time for public service announcements. The NFL and its teams have built more than 150 NFL Youth Fitness Zones and integrated programs into more than 77,000 schools nationwide since the campaign launched. In 2012, the NFL and its teams hosted more than 2,000 PLAY 60 events nationwide. For more information, visit www.NFLRUSH.com/play60.
About USA Football
USA Football leads the game's development, inspires participation and ensures a better and safer experience for all youth, high school and other amateur players. The independent nonprofit is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NCAA's Atlantic Athletic Conference. USA Football, endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002, provides more than $1 million annually in equipment grants and youth league volunteer background check subsidies. For more information, visit http://www.usafootball.com.
About the Muñoz Agency
Founded in 2011 by Hall of Fame offensive linemen Anthony Muñoz and his son Michael, the Muñoz Agency strives to provide true-to-life insight for its clients so they in turn can reach their consumers with the same clarity and authenticity. To that end, the Agency develops and links corporate goals to touch-points within the market, and creates heart stories that inspire the pursuit and capture the loyalty of their consumer.