Josh Watson knew exactly how the youngsters performing a football drill felt Wednesday as they joyfully sprinted around the Hughes Stadium turf.
Watson, you see, spent several years participating in Boys & Girls Club activities while growing up in the Kansas City, Mo., area. So, seeing 78 youngsters from across Larimer County beaming while going through skills drills left him with a wide smile.
“Giving back to the community is the most important thing we do in CSU football,” said Watson, a sophomore linebacker for the Rams. “It’s great being out here and seeing these kids with smiles on their faces. It brought back a lot of fun memories for me.”
The kids came from Fort Collins, Loveland and Wellington – all participants in Larimer County Boys & Girls Clubs. The event was a first for both organizations, but judging by the enthusiasm displayed by the kids and the 50 or so members of CSU’s football, volleyball and soccer teams, Wednesday’s event was the start of a new tradition.
“This is one of the best things we’ve ever done – it’s just incredible!” said Kaycee Headrick, director of operations for LCBGC. “The kids have been so looking forward to this, and they are having an amazing time.”
The kids, ranging in age from 6 to 14, had to sign up for the event, and every available seat was taken, said Andy Abbott, the program and outreach coordinator for LCBGC.
The kids were divided into groups and taught various drills for each sport. Kids spent 30 minutes focusing on each represented sport, catching football passes, working on volleyball serves and booting balls into the back of soccer nets before rotating to the next sport.
After eating lunch provided by McDonald’s on the stadium’s concourse, the kids were given CSU gear and had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with the athletes while getting autographs.
The event was a literal eye-opener for Paulina Hougaard-Jensen, an incoming freshman from Denmark who arrived from Copenhagen just nine hours prior to the kids’ arrival at the stadium. She loved the experience.
“I wish I had the chance to do something like this when I was a kid,” she said. “It was really fun.”
Rams quarterback Nick Stevens was tossing passes and handing out praise to kids doing everything in their power to impress the student-athletes – many of whom towered over the youngsters.
“I would have loved to have done something like this when I was their age,” he said. “The kids are having a great time, and so are we. I know we all feel like any time we can give back to the community it’s a great thing. It’s a huge part of being a student-athlete at CSU.”
The first-year event is part of an expanding relationship with Boys & Girls Clubs both in Larimer County and in the Denver metropolitan area. Patrick Krza, assistant director of community outreach in the Department of Athletics, said future events are planned with Boys & Girls Clubs, including those that will bring kids to campus.