Getting 250-plus children, mostly of elementary and middle school age, to be quiet is no easy task. Unless the person speaking is a National Football League player, apparently.
On Saturday Bullis School graduate and Tennessee Titans linebacker Moise Fokou returned to his alma mater with his Root 53 Foundation non-profit organization to host a large-scale field day geared toward promoting a healthy lifestyle. Approximately 500 people of all ages were in attendance, 250-plus of them were young aspiring football players.
The event also featured appearances from DeMata Catholic (Prince George’s County) graduate Edwin Williams, an offensive guard who most recently played for the Chicago Bears, and ex-NFL player Leigh Bodden.
“When he was talking, I just wanted to listen,” said Neelsville Middle School student Zachery Genovez of Montgomery Village. “I just wanted to listen, I want to see what he’s got to say, I want to know what I’ve got to do to get better. I feel like everyone was really listening to what they were saying because they’ve been there, they’ve done that and we’re just starting.”
Fokou, who said he relished the opportunity to return to his alma mater and connect with local youth, said he believes it’s important for athletes who reach a certain status to give back. His Root 53 Foundation, which according to the organization’s website is “rooted in his passion for supporting under-served youth,” is geared toward providing educational support to under-served communities.
Saturday’s event was the first of its kind, Fokou said, as it combined both the physical aspect of football — drills and activities on the field — with guidelines to leading a healthy lifestyle with various healthy food demonstrations during lunch.
Fokou’s organization partnered with Leveling the Playing Field, a non-profit organization founded by Bethesda native Max Levitt that helps support at-risk youth’s involvement in athletics by providing necessary equipment, Saturday.
“Obviously in the past we’ve done football camps, heavily drilling in football and just teaching kids intangible life skills but one of our other initiatives is healthy eating and healthy lifestyle,” Fokou said. “I think kids came to see how easy it is to eat healthy and how good healthy food can taste.”
For four hours starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, participants cycled through various drills that included tire rolling races, football toss and tug of war. Fokou and his NFL buddies also spoke to the crowd and drew a variety of questions. Levitt said he respected that Fokou tried to encourage questions from just the subject of football to other topics, such as education. Many participants agreed that knowing Fokou grew up locally and made it to the NFL was quite motivating.
“For me it’s important to give back, I can see myself in these kids,” Fokou said. “When you make it to a certain level it’s important to give back, you can’t get to the top and not look back. I feel like we were making real connections, kids were asking questions and that’s all I could as for, trying to reach as many people as we can reach.”