In his 28 years of ownership of the New Orleans Saints, Tom Benson has seen both his hometown and football team reach its peak at the same time. Four days away from the city hosting the Super Bowl for a league record-tying tenth time among cities, the club's Owner/Chairman of the Board lauded the city's condition and expressed his desire to put in motion plans to bid for another league championship game as soon as possible after the confetti clears on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome field for Super Bowl XLVII.
However, while civic pride and Benson's excitement of hosting the fifth Super Bowl of his ownership tenure are important themes, his message and a 20-minute press conference in front of over 200 school age children as well as local and national media centered on youth and the importance of physical fitness at the NFL PLAY 60 Kids' Day at the NFL Experience. The press conference took place inside the attraction at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
After being handed the podium by emecee and local television personality Sally Ann Roberts, Benson applauded the children in attendance calling them "The future of New Orleans and Louisiana." He expressed to them that in the future it will be up to them to make the region better than ever. After talking about his organization's ardent support and extensive player participation in the PLAY 60 program, Benson introduced the next speaker, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham.
Just like yesterday in a PLAY 60 event at Fifth Ward Junior High School in Bush, Graham was treated to the most thunderous applause of the day by the students. Stating that the fight against obesity is paramount, Graham challenged the students to find 60 minutes in each day for physical activity.
"You have 1,440 minutes in a day," said Graham. "Myself and the Saints are just asking you to give us 60 of those 1,440 minutes."
Graham closed out his thoughts by announcing the donation of an Xbox 360 with Kinect to a lucky school for its students to use as part of their physical fitness curriculum. He discussed the benefits of the device, saying it gives families an opportunity to exercise and play together as a unit at home as well.
Following Graham's speech, where he was flanked by defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and team ambassador and former wide receiver/returner Michael Lewis, Roberts introduced New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and United States Representative Cedric Richmond.
While, the mayor reiterated Benson's views of the progress of both the Saints and the city saying that "He's excited as he's ever been about the city of New Orleans", the former Carrolton Playground athlete reiterated the message of the importance of sports and fitness. Using the club's Pro Bowl tight end in attendance as an example along with his favorite post-touchdown celebration, he told the youth that if they exercise enough maybe they would be able to dunk over the goalpost like the former University of Miami (Fla.) small forward.
The ceremony was closed with further emphasis on fitness by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. In addition to keeping with to the message of the afternoon, the number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Stanford deftly realized who the star of the day was, telling the children that they have great role models here in Drew Brees and Graham both on and off the field.
Today's NFL PLAY 60 Kids' Day gave more than 1,200 local children from 14 Louisiana schools the opportunity to spend time with these players, as well as wide receiver Lance Moore for three hours prior to the league's centerpiece fan event in host cities opens to the public. All attendees completed the NFL Play 60 Challenge in partnership with the American Heart Association in the months leading up to the Super Bowl. As part of their experience, the children participated in interactive PLAY 60 fitness activities using the innovative HOPSports training system and took part in games including Punt, Pass & Kick, speed and mobility drills, quarterback challenge games and extra point kicking stations.