In a testament to his character, Super Bowl champion, Shaun Gayle, dedicated some of his time to inspire the next era of budding NFL players at a Chicago Bears Mini Monsters camp.
Arriving at the Etihad Stadium with an enormous smile on his face, the sporting legend got stuck in, throwing the ball around and encouraging 350 schoolchildren from Manchester to give American Football a try.
With an emphasis on giving back to the community, the Chicago Bears are touring the country, heading to six different cities to bring attention to the benefits the game brings.
With the support of United Airlines, the club’s charismatic head of youth football, Gustavo Silva, delivers fun sessions, in which the kids learn the importance of teamwork, determination and enjoying yourself. And who better than to prove to them that anything is possible than former defensive back, Shaun Gayle?
Chicago Bears icon Shaun Gayle reflects on his road to the Super Bowl
The legend watched on in joy as he witnessed the future of the sport right in front of his eyes, prompting him to reminisce on how he first started playing the game.
Speaking exclusively to SPORF, he said: “When we look back on the days when we were introduced to the game itself, it’s different in the United States, because the NFL is everywhere. It was the thing to do. If you were a young lad, running around playing with your friends, eventually, somebody showed up with a football.
“It’s our culture. It’s part of us. So now, to see this expansion over here in the UK, it’s unbelievable. When I was with The Bears, and we played at Old Wembley Stadium in 1986, following the Super Bowl, the fan base has grown so much. To see how much attention is on the game is amazing.
“It says a lot about the NFL and how they’ve approached this. They’re really pushing this product to the point where as we believe in it, the fans here are really believing in it.”
Shaun Gayle was blown away by the skills on display at the Mini Monsters clinic
After seeing the kids taking to the drills like a duck to water, Gayle let his imagination run wild.
With so much talent on display, he began to wonder whether any of the kids in front of him will one day emulate his achievements.
He beamed: “It’s all about believing in yourself. And that’s the thing about team sports. You’re talking about building confidence and learning accountability and things of that nature. These are things that we need as adults to move forward in our lives.
All of these things are honed in playing a team sport. You’ve got to be part of a unit, you have to be responsible, you have to know what to do, and you have to believe in the guy next to you. You need to know that you have to make the right decisions to move forward.
“All these things are so important. That’s why part of this project is for kids to focus on that. We want them to have fun, but also benefit from what this game provides. And that’s understanding these types of things.”
Shaun Gayle has high hopes for the future of NFL in the UK
With some of the kids having never picked up an American Football before, this was a completely new experience for them. And Gayle felt privileged to watch them enjoy a moment that could change their lives forever.
The 61-year-old asserted: “There’s a change in the look on the faces of these children. When they sit down, they don’t know what to expect. But once they get into this, and they start running around, and you see how much fun it is, they learn some things, and it’s some activity they’re not accustomed to, they gravitate towards it. Everybody’s a winner; they’re all having a good time. That’s all we ask. It’s amazing.”
Shaun Gayle loves giving back
When the icon was introduced to the crowd of kids, gleefully taking a day off school, they all cheered in unison, excited to hear Gayle’s words of wisdom. And for an athlete who’s achieved so much, he’s still thrilled to have such a profound impact on young people’s lives.
He smiled: “I think it’s great. I’m a lucky person to be here. It’s great that they want to listen to or even talk to me. I really appreciate that. I just want to do my part. And that’s being involved in this whole thing. To bring the idea of American football and Play 60, meaning physical activity for 60 minutes a day, is fantastic. To talk about these things with these kids, seeing them run around and enjoy it, makes my day.
“When the Bears asked me to join in, I wasn’t really sure what this was about. But then, once I learned about it, I thought, ‘Of course’. I think anybody would want to be a part of something so positive.”
Featured Image Credit: James Sweetnam