The message was simple from the start. It was a day to have fun and more than 200 children from the area took advantage of it Friday afternoon on the practice fields at Alltel Stadium as the Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the third-annual Tropicana "Got Skills?" Rookie Day. The event was held to celebrate National Dairy Month in conjunction with the Jaguars, Tropicana and Winn-Dixie.
The entire Jaguars rookie class was in attendance led by first-round pick Marcedes Lewis. The event allowed children from ages 7-14 to participate in drills that teach the fundamentals of football and the value of teamwork. Children registered at a local Winn-Dixie and the event filled up in less than two weeks.
"This is important for me because I never got this opportunity as a kid, being able to come out here with pro athletes and getting a little bit of coaching," Lewis said. "I like working with the kids and I'm looking forward to becoming more involved with the community. Where I come from, you don't get opportunities like this every day. I know how much it means to the kids, but I think it's more important to the players."
Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver addressed the group prior to the activities.
"We appreciate all the parents bringing the kids out here today," Weaver said. "This is an important day for them to learn some skills and more importantly some life skills from these young men. I want to thank all of you for your support."
The registration line started early as participants lined up and many were sporting jerseys from their favorite Jaguars player, including Byron Leftwich, Fred Taylor and Rashean Mathis. The children were excited to get one-on-one time with future NFL superstars.
"I am out here to have fun," said Nicholas Hall, seven-year old from Mandarin who came to the event with his father. "My favorite player is Fred Taylor. I can't wait to meet the new rookies."
In addition to the work on the field, the children had the opportunity to interact with the players and obtain autographs throughout the three-hour event. Each participant had a Jaguars rookie sign their 'Got Skills?' tee shirt.
The event included snacks for the participants and drinks were provided by Gatorade and Tropicana. Jaxson de Ville and members of the ROAR were also in attendance. The Cool Catmobile made a special appearance at the end to give the children a treat on their way out.
"This was just all about fun," said Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars' second-round pick. "These are the true fans and we are getting them at a young age where they can learn, and we can teach them different things. All I asked of them was to have fun. They were all excited and I think everyone had a great time."