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Playing with the pros


It ended up being a perfect day for the fourth annual Tropicana "Got Skills?" Rookie Day on Wednesday on the practice fields at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. The rain held off and more than 200 kids participated in the event, which is held to celebrate National Dairy Month in conjunction with the Jaguars, Tropicana, Winn Dixie, Red Baron and Blue Bell Ice Cream.

The entire 2007 Jaguars rookie class was in attendance and led the kids through six different stations to teach the basics of football that included testing throwing accuracy as a quarterback and weaving through cones to make a tackle.

"We are just having fun," said Reggie Nelson, the club's first-round pick.

Nelson, who played at the University of Florida, received the loudest ovation when he was announced at the event. Nelson and fellow safety Josh Gattis manned the defensive station where the kids tried their hand at making an interception.

"These are some of our biggest supporters," Gattis said. "At this level, we have to be a role model for them. Anytime you can interact with kids, it's going to be fun."

Children were randomly selected for the event by registering at local Winn-Dixie stores for the event. Jaxson de Ville and members of the ROAR were also in attendance signing autographs and meeting the young fans. The event allowed the rookies the opportunity to interact with their fans.

"Every player you ever talk to will tell you they love to do things for kids," Jaguars Manager of Media Sales Rollin Isbell said. "The kids are real and they are the fans of tomorrow."

The players are finishing up the club's offseason training program and preparing for the start of training camp on July 27. Part of their introduction to the NFL has included participation in the Jaguars Rookie Club, which was established in 2003 to help the young players learn about life in the NFL on and off the field.

"It has been great including today," Gattis said. "We have had some valuable experiences while we have been here with all of our meetings. They gave us a lot of knowledge on different things and we have had the chance to get out in the community and show our faces."

A goody bag and snacks, including ice cream by Blue Bell, were handed out following the event. The kids stopped and had their "Got Skills" t-shirts signed on the way out of the facility. Judging by the smiles, it was a day they won't soon forget.

"They are going to remember that they met Reggie Nelson as a rookie," Isbell said. "Fast forward twenty years from now and Reggie Nelson is in the Hall of Fame, there are going to be 250 kids here that can say they were at a rookie skills camp with him twenty years ago."

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