“You're never too big to give back,” said Tuzar Skipper, an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers who played football for two seasons at Maloney High School in Meriden. “These kids are the next generation to come up.”
What Skipper said gives us a taste of the spirit and excitement generated by the 2020 NFL Players’ Weekend, a fundraiser for the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford that has been running for the past 15 years, in partnership with JL Sports.
While it would be easy to take this event for granted when it comes around every year, that would be to ignore all the drive and effort it takes to put it on.
Each year, NFL agent Joe Linta, the president of JL Sports, brings in players he represents. The youth football clinic gives local kids aged 8-14 the opportunity to run football drills under the guidance of real NFL players.
In addition to Friday night's dinner and auction at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, the youth clinic was held at Choate Rosemary Hall on Saturday afternoon and a “Bowl With The Pros” event Saturday evening at Wallingford Bowl capped the weekend.
Last year, the United Way raised $57,000 and this year Executive Director Maria Harlow hopes to push that number up to $60,000.
“The clinic is really exciting,” Harlow said. “You don't have to be a football fan to get excited about seeing the players here. … We love to give kids the opportunity to train with them for a day.”
The NFL players in attendance this year, in addition to Skipper, were Nate Becker (Buffalo Bills), Ben Braunecker (Chicago Bears), Mason Schreck (Cincinnati Bengals), Cortez Broughton (Los Angeles Chargers), C.J. Conrad (New York Giants), Anthony Cioffi (New York Jets), D'Angelo Ross (New England Patriots), and Troy Apke (Washington Redskins).
We’d like to thank them, along with the local sponsors and the United Way, for contributing to this worthy cause.
“I give so much credit to the United Way,” said Linta. “They have put in so much work to put this together. Not a lot of this is done by me. Most of it's done by them.”