FORT HOOD, Texas -- Nearly 200 area youths turned out with their families on Super Bowl Sunday here for a chance to meet National Football League players and gain some insight into what it takes to be the best.

Former NFL players Rodney Bailey and Reggie Howard and other members of the "I am NOT a HERO Foundation, Inc.," were running late for their football mini-camp for military youths driving south to this Central Texas installation from Dallas.

Lonzo Cobaris, an employee at Fort Hood's Bronco Youth Center and one of many volunteers supporting the event, took the microphone and polled hundreds waiting in bleachers at the Smith Middle School football field about their favorite college and NFL teams.

When he asked who participants liked in the Super Bowl set to be played later in the evening in Arlington at Cowboys Stadium, the overwhelming response went for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Standing next to the bleachers in an Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packer jersey, Sarah Ramos, a teacher and coach at the school also volunteering for the day, heard the cheers and shook her head.

"It's been like that all week at school, too," Ramos said.

After Cobaris warmed up the crowd, members of Fort Hood Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation and volunteers led area youths onto the football field for some warm-ups and football drills as they awaited the arrival of the football players.

The Mills family was one of many Fort Hood families who came out for the day. Staff Sgt. Lloyd Mills Sr. admitted he's not much of a football fan, but came out with his wife, Kareen, and their 4-year-old daughter, Natasha, for his son, Lloyd Jr.

"I don't really follow football," Lloyd Sr., who is an Apache helicopter mechanic with the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade on his R&R leave from Afghanistan, said. "He does."

"I'm here to meet the players," Lloyd Jr., 15, said, "and, hopefully, get some tips." The Shoemaker High School sophomore added that he plans to try out for the football team in the fall as a punter.

Sporting a New York Giants No. 10 jersey, 10-year-old Robbie Griffin Jr., a fifth grader at Reece's Creek Elementary School, came to the mini-camp hoping to meet his idol, Eli Manning. While his idol didn't make the trip from Dallas, Robbie was proud to wear his jersey on Super Bowl Sunday.

"I started liking them (the Giants) in 2007," Robbie said, "when they won the Super Bowl."

His dad follows the Redskins, while his mom, Nicole, is a life-long Steelers fan. She said her husband would root for Pittsburgh in the big game, too.

"If he knows what's good for him, he will," she said with a smile. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Robbie Griffin Sr., from the 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat), kept quiet next to his wife.

Nearly 90 minutes after Fort Hood military families gathered at the Smith Middle School football field, the football players arrived to cheers from the children.

Reggie Howard, who played for the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins from 2001-2006, said the message of his organization is to teach children to look beyond sports figures for their heroes. He said that's especially true in military families.

"The commitment and sacrifices made by military members and their families may not make them celebrities, but it makes them heroes," he said. "I'm not a hero. You are."

Rodney Bailey, who played defensive end in the NFL from 2001-2007 and won a Super Bowl ring with New England, told the kids that they, too, should chase their dreams.

"It's all about ordinary people doing extraordinary things," he said. "You just need the opportunity, a little luck and a lot of prayer. We're all capable of doing special things in our lives, and not just on the playing field."

Both former players said it was special to come to Fort Hood.

"It means a lot to come out and support the kids and the troops," Howard said. He said giving back to the community is the focus of his foundation, telling the children. "To become a true leader, you must learn to serve."

After talking to the assembled children, both Howard and Bailey ran football drills with the kids and played a few downs of flag football.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16