Jacksonville Jaguars Alvin Pearman and Stockar McDougle, along with former Jaguar Anthony Johnson, are part of a group traveling to Africa this week for a 10-day trip on behalf of Athletes in Action. The group of 12 also includes Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith and several other chaplains and businessmen from across the country.
The group will be meeting with the Athletes in Action staff of several countries in Africa, primarily in west Africa where the people are practicing sports ministry. The mission of Athletes in Action is to build spiritual movements through the platform of sport.
"We are going over there to connect with them and partner with them for a short time," Johnson said. "In large degree, we want to empower them and give them credibility. Their staff works with the federations for their countries, where they have impact on their national teams."
The trip begins in Lome, Togo before finishing in Lagos, Nigeria where they will be staying in guest houses. As part of the trip, the players will conduct a football clinic for the young people in the country. Lagos is a city of approximately 17 million, so Johnson knows it will be a challenge.
"There are going to be at least 150 people in the clinics between the four or five of us," Johnson said. "It's going to be a challenge. They have a strong interest in football coming to their country. There is a lot of poverty, but there is a lot of passion and desire for sports. It's a great opportunity."
Pearman got involved with Athletes in Action during his time at the University of Virginia and continued his association when he joined the Jaguars in 2005. Johnson approached Pearman during the 2006 season about the opportunity, and the second-year running back was sold on it.
"This is a great opportunity for me to share my faith with some unique people that I would never get an opportunity to do otherwise," Pearman said. "It's an opportunity to see a part of the world and learn from their culture."
Pearman, who just completed an internship with Merrill Lynch in New York City, is excited about the opportunity to teach the people the game of football.
"It's great when you are getting around a community that is unfamiliar with the game of football," Pearman said. "It's a game I love so much and it's great to be able to share it with them."
Johnson, who played for the Jaguars in 2000, is looking forward to the impact the group can have on the country.
"Personally, it's something I always wanted to do since I was playing," Johnson said, "just to go over to a different country and help people in poverty. That is a huge thing. It's great excitement for me, but to also take guys who are playing now and give them the vision for not just what they can do from a spiritual standpoint, which is a strong focus, but what they can do from an influence. Given all the blessings they have, it's important for them to give to those who don't. "