As we have made it a point here to show, being a Miami Dolphins player isn't only about what happens on the field, it's also about what happens off the field, and it's arguably the place where they can make a bigger impact.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins rookies got their first taste of what it truly means to be a member of the organization, as they teamed up with Special Olympics to host over 60 Special Olympics athletes from Broward and Dade counties to promote physical fitness in the South Florida community.
"I love it," said Dolphins rookie WR Jakeem Grant. "Any way I can give back to the Dolphins community just for welcoming me in with open arms, it's gonna be great. You get to come out here and play football with the kids and you show them 'this is what we do every day', I told them my one rule is to have fun and that's exactly what they did, I could see it in their faces."
Grant was correct in his assumption, as evidenced by a discussion with Stephen O'Bremski, who has been playing as a participant with the Special Olympics for at least eight years, and got to experience playing with the Dolphins for the first time ever.
"It's fun making new friends," he said. "The quarterbacks, trying to get the ball, trying to get touchdowns, it's fun, I had a good time."
This was the third year in the row that the Miami Dolphins and the Special Olympics teamed up to give these kids such a unique experience, and each year it's turned out to be a great motivator for the kids to do their best and train to succeed in their own league.
"The training for our flag football program goes pretty much from July to October," said Vice President of Development for Special Olympics Florida Erin Kozlowski. "And every single athlete that trains on a county level gets to compete in our county competition, and then from there the first place finishers can qualify to advance, and they can go to our Special Olympics Florida state competition.
"All of these athletes here are going to be training on a county level in flag football this season, so this is just a super bonus for everybody."
It's also a super bonus for some of the Dolphins rookies, particularly one Akil Blount, an undrafted free agent linebacker out of FAMU who was not only the President of the Student Athlete body in college, but he also has familial ties to children organizations through his father Mel Blount, a Hall of Fame cornerback who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"My dad started a youth home after he finished playing," Blount said. "So growing up and being around those kids, seeing how he had affected them, worked with them and really changed their lives, that's what I grew up under. So now that I'm in that position, now it's my turn to give back and do the same thing."
Besides Grant and Blount, the other rookies who made an appearance were James Burgess, Ruben Carter, Brandon Doughty, Kenyan Drake, Tyler Gray, AJ Hendy, Xavien Howard, Gabe Hughes, Farrington Huguenin, Jordan Lucas, Marshall Koehn, Lafayette Pitts, Rashawn Scott and Brandon Shippen, and it was clear that they thoroughly enjoyed their first experience in an off-the-field endeavor with their new team.
“It was a cool day coming out here and playing with the kids, running around with them and seeing how happy they were to play with us and have us coaching them,” Miami Dolphins second-round draft pick CB Xavien Howard said. “It’s important to give back, because there are kids that don’t have an opportunity to do what we were doing right now. We are helping them out and giving them some feelings that we get when we’re playing. We had a blast with them.”
It was a good first step for the young players fresh out of college, but their work making impacts in the South Florida community is only just beginning. As time goes on they will see lives being changed thanks to their efforts, and they will no doubt find that the time they spend changing those lives will have an impact on their own lives as people and athletes.
The season may not have started yet, but the impact they make as Miami Dolphins is already being felt.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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