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Focus on Fitness

Posted Sep 14, 2010

Brian Dawkins helped show the Broncos' support for physical education by taking part in festivities celebrating a grant for Kepner Middle School as part of NFL Network and Comcast's "Keep Gym in School" campaign.


DENVER -- When Brian Dawkins was a youngster growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., he and his school pals would spend their recess time playing a game called "hotball." The Broncos safety said there was nothing like the feeling of sitting through the rest of the school day sweaty and dirty after a particularly intense game.

Those memories drove the passion that led Dawkins to Kepner Middle School on Tuesday to help the NFL Network and Comcast dedicate new equipment and facilities made possible through the 2010 "Keep Gym in School" program. Dawkins talked to the students about the importance of staying active during a morning pep rally before leading them through a play period featuring football drills and fitness exercises.

"Maybe there's something that I'm able to say that convinces them to get out for a little while, to stay out a little longer, to stay active," Dawkins said. "Hopefully as they become young adults and adults the thing that they start now with being active will carry over."

Kepner students waived pom-poms and Broncos pennants throughout the pep rally, which featured appearances by Broncos Cheerleaders Katie and Jessica and Miles the Mascot. NFL Network's Scott Hanson emceed the event, introducing performances by Kepner's own band, Lincoln High's cheer squad and Montbello High's drum line.

Colorado Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones and Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg talked to the students about the new fitness opportunities provided by the $25,000 grant. Scott Binder, Senior Vice President of Comcast's Mile High Region, also spoke about the opportunity to help with such an important cause.

The school has used the money to build a new climbing wall and buy new sports equipment, including footballs, volleyballs and pedometers.

"I think it's incredible to have the Broncos as such a good partner of ours," Boasberg said afterward. "Their generosity and the role models their players serve as for our kids are just wonderful."

During the rally, Jones said that 55 percent of Colorado's teenaged students do not get at least one scheduled period of physical activity per week. But through programs such as Keep Gym in School, Denver Public Schools has made efforts to further its athletic offerings. Boasberg said the district has expanded its middle school sports programs in recent years and is in the process of doing the same at the high school level.

"I think the physical exercise is a key part of school," said Boasberg, who wore his Yale football jersey from his days as a Bulldog wide receiver. "It makes you a better student, makes people come to school and helps people come together and learn teamwork."

Dawkins helped hammer home that message to students during his speech and the clinic. On a bright, sunny morning, Dawkins led students through stretching and assisted at various stations designed to simulate football drills, including areas for the 40-yard dash and vertical jump testing.

After stretching, the Broncos captain flashed some of the positive energy that has served him well on the football field, sending the students to their drills saying "Let's Rock, let's rock."

Dawkins noted that his favorite school subject was English and talked about the relationship between fitness and success in the classroom. It's that belief that made the All-Pro jump at the chance to help the NFL Network and Comcast support the initiative.

A father of four children, Dawkins said with recent cuts to physical education nationally, it's more important than ever to motivate children to get out from behind the computer or video game system. Whether it's playing football, "hotball" or something else, Dawkins wants students to know the benefits of regular exercise.

"I think it's important to understand that you can have fun and not even know that you're doing things to keep you physically fit -- playing tag and different things like that," Dawkins said. "You're running around. You're breathing hard. You're being active. You're having a good time. You're not thinking about exercising."