Leading up to the Super Bowl all the attention is on the players that will be suiting up on Sunday and taking part in the big game. Perhaps just as if not more important is the little-known work NFL players do aside from their play on the field, a prime example of this is the Panini Skills clinic that took place on February 3rd. The Panini Skills clinic, hosted at the local YMCA in Houston brought local Houstonian pop Warner football teams together with some of the NFL’s brightest stars for an afternoon of football drills, mentoring, and a good time for all. The event included appearances from current and future NFL stars, Le’Veon Bell, Teddy Bridgewater, Doug Baldwin, Leonard Fournette, and Greg Ward Jr. as well as numerous Panini representatives including Jason Howarth the Vice President of Marketing for Panini.
Panini America is a company originally founded in 1961 by Giuseppe Panini in Modena, Italy. Since its founding, Panini has continued to expand its roots globally as a company that focused in the selling of books, stickers, trading cards, and other novelty pieces. This led to the creation of Panini in American sports and specifically Panini America, the leader in American sports trading cards as the only company with agreements with all four major sports. Outside of the business aspect of Panini, they have made great strides in philanthropy work as they have prided themselves on their outreach to the communities that they work in. Going beyond simply being a publication and trading card distributor, Panini often puts on clinics for young children interested in the sport, and putting on this clinic over the course of Super Bowl week has become a tradition for them.
“One of the things Panini likes to do with kids is really find a way to give them experiences that go beyond just the trading cards and turn that into real life experiences, “ explained Jason Howarth. “For the past 8 years we have really been focusing on when the Super Bowl comes into a town we want to make sure that those kids who are playing the game each and every day have an opportunity to experience this and what the Super Bowl is like. We bring in the best players that we can bring to the table, get them involved and integrated with the kids and teach them football skills.”
Events such as these are able to show children from a young age simply just how important it is to give back, to be a stand-up and respectable person. While these kids are running routes, taking handoffs from Bell, catching passes from Bridgewater, among other drills they are also taking in life lessons and learning what it took for those players to get where they are through hard work and dedication. “Pop Warner is very focused on academics so you also have to have a certain grade point average to be able to play Pop Warner football, so they are all about success in the classroom before success on the field. All these kids are good students and that is their reward for being here,” explained Howarth on how the children are chosen to participate in these events. Instilling in these kids that they are students first and athletes second follow in Panini’s goal and mindset when running these events.
As impactful as these events are on the kids who participate, the players may argue that it benefits them even more. Teddy Bridgewater, in his second year taking part of the event really believes in the message being sent and that it is important to give back.” Participating in events like this goes a long way…an event like this can make a kids entire year, its just amazing what Panini does,” said Teddy Bridgewater. “Today is just all about Panini.”
For those who were able to participate in the event, it truly was a great day for a great cause. While the big game will be occurring on Sunday, undoubtedly those kids who took part in the event will be feeling like winners no matter who comes out on top in the Super Bowl.
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