The 2019 NFL Draft may be in the books, but potential draft picks of tomorrow recently got a taste of what being a leader is like in the NFL as they participated in the Los Angeles Chargers' Take Charge summit.
Over 30 high school juniors attended the four-hour summit at Dignity Health Sports Park and were led through elements directly from the NFL Player Engagement's "character development" curriculum. The components of the curriculum were designed to make them better leaders both on and off the football field.
"I'm impressed to see this many high school football players make the decision to spend a Saturday learning about leadership," said General Manager Tom Telesco, who spoke at the summit. "I am glad I could be a part of this. I am a huge advocate of what the game of football can do for kids. Football develops values to be used our entire lives. Character, discipline, work ethic, accountability, time management, physical and mental toughness. All things that can help you be successful in whatever field you choose in life."
Along with Telesco, the students had one-on-one time with Sr. Director of Player Engagement Arthur Hightower as well as Cardale Jones and Germy Davis. Additionally, the students had presentations from Don Hooton Jr. of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, who discussed the dangers of performance enhancing drugs, as well as Dr. Patricia Riba, who shared the importance of nutrition, health and wellness.
As someone who deals with current and former players, Hightower was excited to be able to impact a group so early on in their football careers.
"I think it feels good knowing that we can start younger," Hightower reflected. "A lot of work goes on with the NFL now and the movement we have. We have our prep, life, and next connection to player engagement, so this is part of the 'prep.' This is reaching out to the younger generation of future football players. The 'life' is obviously, dealing with current football players, and the 'next' is dealing with the Legends. This is where it starts. One of these guys could be one of the players in a locker room in the league at some point."
In order to complete the Take Charge program, the students involved were tasked with developing a community service project and having their teammates help assist in it. The school with the best service project will receive a $1,000 donation from the Chargers Community Foundation to their football program/athletic department.
Ultimately, partaking in the service project builds character and leadership skills that will take the students far in life.
"I think being of service shows you're a leader," Davis said. "It makes a good impact on your community to see athletes or regular students trying to do better in the world and help the community to make it better."
"This is the same community that's going to support you when you come back (from college)," added Hightower. "It's the same community, if you're fortunate to go to the NFL, you're going to represent. When you look at our team, look at guys who come from small communities (and the work they've done in them). Look at Thomas Davis, when he was the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, where he came from in Georgia, he goes back and gives back to his community. It goes a long way. To be able to put that in them, whether they make it to the NFL or not, it's just making our community stronger."
Over 30 high school juniors attended the four-hour summit at Dignity Health Sports Park and were led through elements directly from the NFL Player Engagement's "character development" curriculum.