The New Orleans Saints and the NFL were proud to welcome over 50 high school football players from across the region on Friday, June 14 for the NFL High School Player Development Leadership Program presented by the National Guard.
Give you tools outside the game--football ad game of life
Students were welcomed by the Saints, the National Guard, and the NFL, with a special appearance by New Orleans native and former NFL star defensive back, Aeneas Williams.
Williams, a member of the New Orleans Louisiana Sports Hall of Fames, addressed the students on how important it is to make them aware of what the reality is versus the perception of others and hopefully change their lives.
"Maximize the opportunity. Everyone gets opportunities, but not everyone takes full advantage of them," said Williams. "People always ask me why I don't play anymore because I could if I wanted to, but I don't want to play. I maximized my opportunity and felt like I left it all on the field."
Williams also stressed to the athletes about the realities of the NFL and how important education is to succeeding in life. "By 25 years old, most NFL players have no economic use for the only skill they ever developed. Because they didn't put any effort anywhere else," stated Williams.
Another perception Williams spoke about was the student athletes' perception on social media. During the presentation, Williams showed pictures of what some of the athletes said on social media networks on the screen for everyone to see. "The purpose of this was to show the athletes that if you are going to be a great athlete and a great person, learn from your mistakes and move on, don't beat yourself up," said Williams.
After Williams addressed the students, all 50 athletes traveled to Second Harvest Food Bank to volunteer their time and packed over 2,000 lunches.
The National Guard then broke up the students into groups with members of the National Guard as leaders. The students got to know the National Guard members and ask questions about why they chose to serve their country and even about football. Then the students went through drills and learned how communication is key to succeeding in anything in life.
As the day was winding down, another special guest, New Orleans Saints defensive lineman, Akiem Hicks, greeted the student athletes. Hicks stressed the importance of being prepared and having an education.
"Without my education I wouldn't be able to do all the things I want to do in my life. You should always be prepared and cautious and always show the best side of yourself," said Hicks.
The students then engaged Hicks with a question and answer session where they got to ask questions about his biggest struggle in life, the draft process, switching schools, and his plans for after football.
Each student received a t-shirt, National Guard hat, a planner, a notebook, and the National Guard coin of excellence.
There are over 1.6 million high school football players and only 700 will be asked to attend the NFL High School Player Development Leadership Program.