By Teresa Varley
The Steelers and the NFL continued their commitment to keeping kids fit and healthy with an NFL Play 60 Youth Football Festival at Point State Park on Tuesday.
"It's our commitment to getting kids healthy and active for 60 minutes a day," said Peter O'Reilly, vice president of marketing for the NFL. "It's great to have former Steelers here and kids across Pittsburgh to experience things up close and personal before the opener.
"Play 60 is about instilling the importance of getting up every day and being active for 60 minutes. It's not just about today; it's about year round instilling those habits at an early age. It's fun. It doesn't have to always be playing football. It's being active and healthy."
Former Steelers players, including Rocky Bleier, Jeff Hartings, Tunch Ilkin, Mike Logan and Chukky Okobi, were on hand to lead drills and help teach the kids the fundaments of flag football.
"This country is in trouble with the obesity epidemic," said Okobi, who said he loved playing outdoors as a kid. "These kids need to know there is more to life than video games. Football is fun to play. There are boys and girls out here having fun. It can be for everybody, especially at a young age. It's a great experience for these kids to come out here and run around with a couple of football players."
The clinic, which runs for two days, gave 800 kids grades four through six from 10 Pittsburgh-area schools the chance to get 60 minutes of play on four fields that were built at Point State Park. The kids moved to different stations where the players and other volunteers conducted drills to help improve their playing skills.
"It's definitely fun," said Logan. "You want to come out here and have fun, but you want these kids to take something from it. I think we are doing a good job and the NFL is doing a good job of getting kids active.
"I wish I had this as a kid. A couple of my cousins were out here on the field. For me being a local kid it lets them know that it doesn't matter where you are from, any goal you set can be attained and it starts by being active."
Logan, who made a valiant effort at quarterbacking during the event despite kids telling him he should stick to defense, was happy to see so many kids from a variety of backgrounds enthusiastically participate.
"If you are active it means you are doing something positive," added Logan. "This is a very positive experience for them. I talked to them about not only being active, but to better their diet, eat healthy, incorporate fruit into their diets. To see this positive atmosphere out here speaks tons for kids who go through some adversity in their lives."