HAMPTON, Va. (July 13, 2017) – Young men from the area flocked to Hampton University’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications auditorium to hear from three NFL greats who are Hampton Roads natives -- Michael Vick, Mike Tomlin and Aaron Brooks -- on a live broadcast of ESPN’s “The Undefeated.”
Since many of these young men aspire to play in the NFL, the trio was beyond thrilled to share their stories of struggle and success.
“I want to be accountable as a role model to help these kids dream their dreams,” said Vick, a 1998 Warwick High School graduate and four-time NFL Pro Bowler.
“This is where we’re from,” said Tomlin, a 1990 graduate of Denbigh High School and Super Bowl-winning coach with the Pittsburg Steelers. He emphasized his desire to inspire, educate and help young athletes turn their dreams into a reality. He pointed to the boys in the crowd, saying, “I can’t wait to see you guys.”
The broadcast, called “From the 757 to the NFL,” kicked off the 21st annual Hampton Roads Youth Foundation’s football camp weekend.
“There is a long legacy of athletic excellence in the Hampton Roads area all the way to the professional ranks,” said HRYF Co-Founder Vernon Lee Jr. “We wanted to provide a platform for in which we could showcase that excellence for area youth.”
Host Jason Reid led the panel discussion, highlighting both good and bad things players face within the NFL. The panelists delved into deeper issues ranging from injuries to antiquated ways of thinking.
“Until the day we are looked at as equals, I think, it’s going to be difficult for white Americans to look at us as quarterbacks,” said Brooks, a 1994 Ferguson High School graduate, Vick’s cousin, mentor and himself a quarterback with Green Bay, New Orleans and Oakland, 1999 - 2006. “It’s a stigma that has been placed on us that we can’t shake.”
“Quite frankly, we have to do the job better than our counterparts who aren’t African-Americans,” said Tomlin.
“At the end of the day, regardless of your color, it’s all about productivity,” added Vick.
After a lively discussion, Hampton University recognized the trio by presenting them framed HU football jerseys.
The HRYF is already working on creating a similar event at Hampton University next year along with ESPN's "The Undefeated" and new list of panelist.