Area youngsters got a chance to take the field with some of their sports heroes Sunday morning as the Seattle Seahawks hosted an NFL Play 60 Character Camp at Chiawana High School.
Second-year Seahawk offensive linemen Germain Ifedi and George Fant, and former ‘Hawks wide receiver Paul Johns were on hand to help work the camp participants, ages 9-13, through drills and games.
In addition to encouraging youths to exercise, the camp also served as an opportunity for the Seahawks to connect with their extended family in the Tri-Cities.
“This Character Camp is designed to reach out to the Hispanic community, get them involved, and it allows the NFL to let the Hispanic community know that they’re part of the 12s,” Johns said. “We wanted to just come out and have some fun with them ... We had a number of people from the NFL here, we had some Seahawks come here as part of our 12 Tour, just to let the east side of the state know, ‘hey, you’re all 12s, we appreciate what you’re doing.’ ”
The event at Chiawana was part of a weekend-long schedule of festivities in southeastern Washington that included stops in Southridge and Richland on Friday, Walla Walla on Saturday and ended with a 12 Flag Ceremony in Othello later Sunday.
While some camp participants were praised for their physical abilities during drills and the 7-on-7 flag football games, character, sportsmanship and effort were the key factors that went into the coaches’ decisions for the day’s — and this was no accident — 12 MVP’s.
“The better person you are, the better athlete you’re going to be,” Johns said to the campers as the day was coming to a close. “Character is doing the right thing when no one’s watching. Anybody can do the right thing when you’re being watched. But when you can do the right things and make the right choices when no one’s watching, that’s high character.”
Johns, who gained more than 1,000 yards and caught seven touchdown passes during his four-year career with the Seahawks (1981-84), now serves as the director of youth and high school football programs for the team. His job mainly consists of reaching out to local communities and getting kids active by participating in the game.
“That’s my goal is to increase the participation of flag football throughout the state of Washington, and then through flag football, they will progress and maybe play tackle football,” he said. “Right now, we want to get as many youths as possible to get out and enjoy this game, and FLAG Football is a way to get out and do it.”
NFL FLAG Football, regarded as the premier youth flag football league in the country, is offered through Richland Parks and Rec. There are several other youth flag and tackle football leagues in the area, including ones through the YMCA, Kennewick Grid Kids, Pasco Youth Football and many other organizations.
“Heck, they’re playing sandlot flag (football) now,” Johns said “So we’re trying to get them into an organized league where the coaches have been trained, they’re Heads Up, hopefully USA Football certified, we have them going all over the state for these clinics.
“If parents really want to get their kids into an organized league, NFL FLAG is a way to do it. And I want the parents to know, there are some flag football leagues in your backyard, right here in Pasco.”