INGLEWOOD, CA-The Los Angeles Chargers continue to sow into the city of Inglewood with its philanthropic efforts. In two years, the Chargers will be making Inglewood their permanent home when they will be playing games inside of the Los Angeles Stadium & Entertainment District at Hollywood Park.
The smiles and the buoyant laughter tell the story. A dream came true for as many as 200 students in September at Worthington Elementary School in Inglewood, California. Getting an opportunity to meet a real-life NFL player put boundless energy into a group of individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to embrace this once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
The best part of the deal is that these students didn’t just get one NFL player to come to their school. About a dozen members of the Chargers showed up. The expressions on the faces of the students were priceless as the Los Angeles Chargers rookie class got their bus and joined members of the Inglewood Police Department in about two hours of physical activities that were formulated into a Play 60 Junior Chargers Training Camp.
Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and safety Derwin James, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, led the parade of players that made these students’ day. James, who has already become a stalwart in the Chargers’ secondary, was highly enthused about participating in the event.
“I’m excited,” James said. “I was just thinking back to when I was in elementary school doing stuff like this or just growing up, just going to school, make good grades, and listening to your parents and stuff.”
Growing up, James said that he didn’t really have what students are exposed to today when it comes to activities such as an NFL Play 60 event, but what he sees is happening now is a great thing. That includes learning about the importance of engaging in physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day and learning how to take care of their bodies by watching what they eat.
“I think they’re getting a lot out of it,” James said. “At one point, we were their age before and us [players] just seeing [them] sticking with it and staying in school, making good grades and seeing their role models; they see us on TV on Sundays and coming out here and just spending time with them is priceless. It lets them know anything is possible. If you’ve got a dream, I’d say stick to it. I was once their age, and now that they get to see me, it’s a good thing that comes with life.”
Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu says he can identify with the students and their zeal. He used to be like them, Nwosu said.
“It means a lot to see kids active, getting a workout in and being happy,” Nwosu said. “Being a kid is what this is all about, running around playing. I did a lot when I grew up, so coming back to the city and seeing these kids doing is awesome. I never did an (NFL) Play 60 myself, but I would just run around the park and stay active.”
Nwosu added that this type of involvement by the Chargers organization and others is important for these young people to see.
“Most kids don’t have schools and parks to go to and just run around and play,” said Nwosu. “So for this school and this community to have something like this for the kids, for the Chargers to do something like this for the kids, it means a lot for them.”
Chargers players weren’t the only stars taking part in the event. Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts as well as City Councilman Ralph Franklin shared some tidbits with students about the importance of exercise and eating right.
“I think it’s very important to recognize that children need to exercise, not only their minds but also their bodies and stay physically fit,” Franklin said. “It’s very important that the Chargers embrace this to identify that they are stakeholders here now and we want o make sure our future is also prepared both physically and mentally. So this sixty minutes of exercise and having at least ten NFL players here really have resonated with the kids that they can have a can-do attitude. It’s a great honor to identify that the school district and the city partnered together with the Chargers to say that we are here for our children.”
Cinder Eller, senior community affairs liaison for the Inglewood Police Department, knows all too well that the interaction between the NFL and the communities that house their franchises in is vital for building and strengthening those relationships. Her father is Carl Eller, a Hall of Fame player when he played with the Minnesota Vikings. Coincidently, the younger Eller attended Worthington Elementary as a student herself, so this was a pretty deal for her to digest.
“This is my alma mater,” Eller said. “This is so amazing. I’m connected to it. If you look at this, they (students) probably never get to see a pro football player…never. They probably won’t even go to a game or shake their hands or talk to them ever. This is big for them.”