Will Gay has fond memories of his time running AAU track as a teen, even competing in the National Championships in the 800 meters.
"I recently pulled up an old time of mine," said Gay. "I came in 17th place, but ran a 2:08 at 13 years old. At that time I was mad, but now looking at it that was something to build on and probably helped get me where I am today."
The Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the game against the Carolina Panthers.
Gay has reached out to kids who share that same love of running track he did, volunteering during OTAs and minicamp with Next Level Athletes AAU track team, giving a helping hand and encouragement wherever needed. He was introduced to the program by Charlie Batch, who oversees it through the Best of the Batch Foundation, and immediately fell in love with helping the team during OTAs and minicamp this past spring.
"When I heard about them I wanted to do whatever I could to help out," said Gay. "To see the smile on the kid's faces and give the coach some help, just to help her timing at the finish line, giving a boost was special for me. I was happy to do it."
The team ended up having a successful season, with 25 of them qualifying for nationals. Gay wanted to do something special for them, and is hosting those who qualified at Thursday night's game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field.
"I wanted to commend them for what they accomplished and let them come out and watch me do my job," said Gay. "They all made nationals. I knew how hard it was for myself to come out of state and get to the national level. That is a tremendous honor and I just want to let them know that."