Inspired by a Sheet of Paper: Reflecting on the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl
by Kylie Reeves, AFH Staff
Sitting in my hotel room around 10pm last Saturday night in Mobile, Alabama, I turned off SportsCenter (this Carolina fan couldn’t watch any more highlights from their game against Duke) and started to go through some very important sheets of paper. A day before, Ivan Blumberg, our CEO Emeritus, facilitated our Empowerment workshop for almost 100 football players participating in the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl, most of whom – if not all – will be drafted into the NFL in April. It was my job to go through the forms the players filled out to see which causes interest them and ways we can help support their philanthropic efforts.
In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I suppose I figured that these guys filled the form out around 6:55am (our workshop started at 7am) so I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t put much thought into it. I suppose I also thought that after multiple days of practices led by the Jets and Lions coaching staffs that emulated the grind of the NFL, maybe their minds were elsewhere. They’d also been meeting with coaching staffs and scouts from around the league so, again, it would have been totally fair for them to blow off the form, sit through an hour of our workshop, and be on their way. But that is not what happened.
As I went through the forms, I saw that many of them were very specific in the causes they cared most about. Many of the guys filled in other causes that weren’t even on the list. Almost all of the players read the paragraph we had on the form describing Project Play’s Children’s Bill of Rights in Sports and when we asked if they wanted to put their name behind it, over 50 said “yes.” Over 50! Barely anyone said no, the rest of the guys simply wanted more information. It’s not that I was surprised by what I found when going through the forms, it was more so that I knew how much these players had on their plate and yet they still were finding ways to help the world outside of the game of football. It was inspiring. It is inspiring.
That moment, late on Saturday night, was a wonderful reminder of why I love our work at AFH so much. To be able to witness football players on the brink of their professional careers with the world as they know it about to change, (as Myjai Sanders told me in the hotel lobby, “This was the last time we get to play a game with our college helmets on. The next game we play will be in the NFL. That’s crazy.”) be so engaged in a discussion about how to use their platforms to make the world a better place and then show – literally on paper – how they want to do it is really just the coolest.
It’s also a huge testament to the Senior Bowl leadership, Jim Nagy and Lauren Taylor Fleming, for making this type of education part of the week’s experience for these players. It’s very cool and I feel lucky to be part of it.
I can’t wait to see the journeys these players embark on, both on and off the field, and I’m so excited to be able to work with them and share their inspiring stories with the world.