Every 21 seconds, another individual in the U.S. is diagnosed with diabetes. That's a statistic two Jaguars players want to change.
On Tuesday, Nov. 14, Jaguars TE Ben Koyack and LB Lerentee McCray joined together with the American Diabetes Association to host an event for students at Sacred Heart Catholic School in honor of World Diabetes Day.
"It's a great opportunity to educate kids about the right things to eat and about getting all their exercise," said Koyack, who will represent the cause on his cleats in-game on Dec. 3 as part of the NFL's My Cause My Cleats intiative. "Diabetes is something that was in my family growing up. My dad was diagnosed with diabetes when I was a very young kid. My brother and sister were both diagnosed right around my own age. Both were in great shape at the time. It even has a history as far back as my grandfather and great grandfather, so it's something that I've experienced firsthand."
Around 100 elementary school children met with the players outside for the afternoon. They began with an interactive presentation on healthy eating habits. The players invited children to give examples of healthy lunch choices, which should always include proteins, fruits, vegetables and low-calorie drinks
"Today we're talking to kids more about overall health and wellness, which really contributes to the prevention of Type II diabetes," said Lindsey Mitchell, campaign manager, sports and entertainment for the American Diabetes Association. "Starting healthy eating habits and being physically active at a young age is so important."
McCray is a member of Team Tackle, an initiative launched in 2016 that brings current and former professional football players together with the Association to raise diabetes awareness and support for its mission.
"I think it's very important for kids to understand diabetes and their sugar intake and to be very active in their young lives," said McCray. "It's actually very important for adults, too."
After the presentation, the real fun began when the players joined the students for 30 minutes of exercise led by local First Coast YMCA representatives. After a group stretch, kids rotated from station to station, including a football toss.
"I think they enjoyed our time out here. We had a great time exercising and playing around," said McCray. I got to teach a couple kids how to throw a football. It's their first time being able to throw the ball."