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Having fun and sharing advice

The Steelers rookies had just wrapped up their final OTA session, ready for a break for a few days before the team's minicamp next week, which will bring an end to the offseason program.

But before they left the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the day, they wanted to do something special for some of their young fans.

The entire rookie class took part in a virtual event with the Mentoring Partnership, an organization founded by late Steelers Chairman and U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney. The idea behind the event was to reach out to area students, including those from the Crossroads Foundation, 1Nation Mentoring and Propel McKeesport, to provide advice, encouragement, support and yes, show them the importance of mentorship.

"Mentoring can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people," said Kristan Allen, director of marketing and development for the Mentoring Partnership. "At its core, mentoring really is about connection. It's about surrounding kids and it's about surrounding all of us with supportive and caring people who can help us dream big and think about and realize a lot of different opportunities.

"If this past year has shown us anything it's that connection is critical for all of us, but especially so for young people. There has been a lot of change this past year. School has looked a lot different. Friendships have looked a lot different.

"We've really focused on building and maintaining those critical connections for young people. We're built on that foundation that Ambassador Rooney mapped out for us and his legacy and spirit really are infused into our day-to-day work."

The event kicked off with everyone, players and students alike, writing down the name of a person who was a mentor to them, someone who truly helped them along the way. But they didn't tip their hand right off the bat and share the information, instead saving the best for last.

What did get things going, was a little bit of exercise to get the body moving along with the mind. It was a mini Play60 display, with five players leading exercises, and teammates and kids joining in. Lamont Wade had the kids running in place, Pat Freiermuth led the 'bear walk,' Rico Bussey crushed it leading sit-ups, Najee Harris handled leading the kids in squats, even wearing a backpack, and Dan Moore showed his talents with a 30-second plank.

After getting their energy level high, it was time to slow it down a little bit with a Q & A with the players. Kids from each of the organizations had the opportunity to ask questions, from how they balance sports and academics, to qualities they possess that make them a combination of a good athlete and person to who their role models were.

"My biggest role models were my parents," said punter Pressley Harvin. "Both of my parents are firm believers in making opportunities and trying to make the most of them. Growing up, I played every sport. Having them behind me the whole time was something I was proud to have and appreciative of. Some guys and kids don't have the opportunity to have both their parents behind them. No matter what, if you have that someone behind you that can continue to drive you and make you a better person overall is what you really want, striving to make sure you have that. It can be a close friend, a relative, anybody you look up to.

"And continue to keep yourself on that track of where you want to be, keep your goals in line, stay in the classroom and make sure your grades are good so the opportunities you have you never left anything on the table."

Linebacker Buddy Johnson fielded a question of a time when he was faced with adversity and how he handled it.

"I would say when I was in high school, I went through an injury, I tore my ACL," said Johnson. "At the time it was hard, but I had a good support system around me that kept me lifted up. I knew what my focus was. I depended on the people around me, my mom and my brothers, trusted in myself. I always had confidence in myself and kept grinding to get where I am now."

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