NFL looking for next generation of stars -- ages 9-12
By ARNIE STAPLETON AP Pro Football Writer
The NFL is looking for the next generation of youth football stars to help usher in its second century.
The league launched a casting call Sunday asking parents and youth coaches of boys and girls ages 9-12 to submit videos of the kids’ best moves on the football field for a chance to attend Super Bowl 54 in Miami and to appear in a follow-up commercial to last year’s epic star-studded banquet spot that kicked off the league’s 100th season.
In that spot, some of the game’s greats from past and present fought over a golden football that toppled from atop a giant cake when Marshawn Lynch’s attempt to sneak a dollop of frosting went horribly — or was it wonderfully? — wrong.
“We kicked off the 100th season in a big way. Now we want to create an even bigger juggernaut commercial, even more ambitious than before, that serves as the passing of the torch to this next generation of superstars,” NFL chief marketing officer Tim Ellis said.
In a spot launching “The Next 100 Super Bowl Contest,” Deion Sanders calls for parents and youth coaches to send in videos showcasing their kids’ best moves and highlighting their passion for America’s most popular sport.
Thirty-two kids will be selected to attend the Super Bowl and appear in the new spot along with retired and current superstars, Ellis said.
“We started looking at a lot of the videos that kids are putting online of themselves playing and we were just blown away at how amazing some of their moves were and how good they were at that age,” Ellis told The Associated Press. “I mean, some of these kids were doing these one-handed catches like Odell Beckham Jr. We were just all like clapping and yelling and celebrating like, how can these kids be this good at this age? It’s incredible.”
Ellis said “the reason we wanted to get someone like Deion, who is a revered player by our generation, is that we knew he could help us get that level of awareness and get people really talking about this. And ultimately, our goal is to get this talked about on the school grounds, right? We want all the kids talking about it at school, together with their parents, among the community and really drive that level of passion and excitement to encourage kids to think about football in a different way and to actually participate.”
Although the project’s launch has been months in the making, it debuted just three days after the ugly fracas in the Steelers-Browns Thursday night game in which Cleveland pass rusher Myles Garrett ripped Mason Rudolph’s helmet off and hit the quarterback in the head with it, drawing an indefinite suspension and giving the league a black eye.
Sanders said he’s honored to be involved in the new project that caps the league’s yearlong celebration of its centennial season.
“I didn’t just become ‘Prime Time’ when I reached the NFL,” Sanders said. “It started on a youth football field in Fort Myers, Florida. That’s when I was doing the Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson, emulating some of the stars that were prevalent and current in the NFL. That’s where that started; I just took it to the next level, the next stage. And that’s what some of these youngsters are having an opportunity to do.”
Parents and coaches, with parental permission, can submit their kids’ video showcasing their skills at tackle or flag football at PlayFootball.com/Next100.
Sanders said he was especially thrilled the league is looking for both boys and girls: “My daughter, she played for my youth football team all the way up to 12 years old and she played tackle, not just flag, and she loved every minute of it.”
A Hall of Fame defensive back who also starred in Major League Baseball, Sanders said some of today’s rising NFL stars like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson aren’t just great football players but “bona fide athletes. They played dual sports coming up. These guys did it all. And that’s the kind of love and excitement and passion that we want” to find in this national casting call.
Ellis said the NFL is expecting “tens of thousands of videos” to be submitted and the league’s teams will help narrow down the finalists.
“At the end of this commercial, we will say, ‘Here’s to the next 100,'” Ellis said. “So, we thought it was appropriate for us to use this unique opportunity as a passing of the torch.”
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