NFL football clinic
Donald Jones tosses the strong side pitch after teaching the children the proper footwork Saturday.

FORT LEWIS, wash. - The post community recently showcased its talent for a select group of nine former NFL players.

Napoleon McCallum, Cephus Witherspoon, Rich Umphrey, Hal Smith, Kirk Dodge, Charles Mincy, Bill Shine and Donald Jones culminated their visit as part of the Athletes Helping Kids program by conducting a free clinic Saturday for 139 children and provided insight on how to make it to the NFL.

"It's a good program and it's part of what Fort Lewis is trying to do," Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., I Corps and Fort Lewis commanding general said, "to put real meaning behind the Army's Family Covenant."

Jacoby met the gridiron greats and geared them up with a hearty breakfast at Bronson Hall.

Sergeant Daniel Deen, NCO of the Year, Spc. Justin R. Brown, Soldier of the Year, Spc. Bryan D. Phillpot, Soldier of the Year runner-up, Spc. Noel James Wood, Soldier of the Quarter, and Pvt. Vanessa Apple, Soldier of the Quarter, accompanied the visiting party as the two groups shared stories.

"The NFL players were in as much awe of our Soldiers as we are of their prowess on the playing field," Jacoby said.

Jacoby said he brought the former NFL players on post to provide a meaningful activity for children to learn more about commitment and pursuing excellence.

"I think it's good for them to get exposed to it," Jacoby said of the children's interaction with a segment of the population that is primarily seen on television.

He said their exploits on the football field are a level of excellence that set an example for all of us to follow.

"We definitely want to be great role models for them," Jones said. "These kids here at Fort Lewis are going to be the best of the best because they obviously have great parents and great people around them."

Jones said he wanted to give all the knowledge he had, especially to the children who asked him questions.

"I really encouraged them to be a success," He said. "I believe without a vision people will perish."

Jones said Athletes Helping Kids just wanted to feed on what the kids' parents are teaching them.

Luis Rodriguez said he brought his son, Luis, to the event because he was interested in seeing what the youth center offers.

"We got here 40 days ago," Rodriquez said, "So we're just taking advantage to see if we can meet and greet some of the professional players and it's also an opportunity for him to join and make new friends."

Sharmetrese Williams also took advantage of the opportunity for her son to interact with the children in the community.

She said the clinic provided the opportunity for children to develop skills necessary in life.

"It's about learning to work on a team," Williams said, "and it's what can I do as an individual to support the team."

McCallum is the all-time leading rusher in Navy history and was second in all-purpose yardage in NCAA history with 7,172 yards, when he graduated.

Jones graduated from University of Washington and was the captain for the Huskies undefeated 1991 team that was named national champions by a nationwide coaches' poll.

Spc. Aaron Carpenter is assigned to the I Corps Public Affairs Office at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Page last updated Fri August 15th, 2008 at 12:53