Former Steelers player Rian Wallace gets some competition in the form of a football for the attention of a young fan. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)
By WIL FULTON
It was average Joes vs football pros on the hardwood last Friday night as local amateur and school basketball teams faced off against a dream-team consisting of past and present NFL players all in the name of charity.
The Hoops for Hope event, created by local son turned NFL player Lonnie Allgood and held at Brookdale Community College’s Collins Arena, consisted of a series of quick exhibition games and other activities to raise money for Dreams for Kids and the YMCAs Strong Kids program, dedicated to providing underprivileged kids with a healthy lifestyle.
Allgood, raised in Red Bank, was a standout wide receiver at Red Bank Regional and Syracuse University before being drafted in 1976 by the Cincinnati Bengals. Allgood founded his charity organization more than 12 years ago, in order to expose kids to positive, successful role models that come from similar situations and backgrounds as they do.
Working in a partnership with the Community YMCA and the Dreams for Kids foundation, Allgood’s event featured a halftime show by the US Army Color Guard, vendors hawking NFL and sports memorabilia, and several raffles and 50/50s .
Its great to see this even finally come to fruition, Allgood told redbankgreen at the tournaments VIP pregame event, where families were able to meet the participating players. This is all about the kids tonight, getting them here and excited, getting them to participate in some healthy exercise. Hopefully this is a night they will remember for a long time, its not everyday you get to meet real NFL players in the flesh. And of course, the proceeds are going to Dreams for Kids and the YMCA to help support their Strong Kids campaign.
Pros taking the floor included Jvonne Parker of the Denver Broncos, Joey Porter of the Oakland Raiders, Reggie Brown of the Philadelphia Eages and former Giant Brandon Bing. Six local teams faced off against the pros, including the Red Bank Catholic girls varsity team, members of the Red Bank PBA, and the Ys own Lunchbreakers (a recreational adult team). Each game lasted about 10 minutes, with the amateurs subbing out while the pros hustled through.
Most of the pros originally hail from New Jersey, and like Allgood, all expressed a special connection to the cause they were supporting and the kids they were able to meet in the process.
I would have killed to be part of an event like this as a kid, said WR and return specialist Charlie Rogers, most recently with the Miami Dolphins, who grew up in nearby Manalapan and now coaches pee-wee football in Matawan. Its something I wish I had, so Im glad to be a part of it now on my end.
Rian Wallace, a linebacker with the 2005 Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers, was quick to share Rodgers sentiments.
I really wish we had something like this growing up, Wallace said. Its a way for us to come together, connect with the kids and show them were not superhuman, or inaccessible were just regular guys who worked hard to get to where we are now. We can show kids they do it, too, if they live their lives the right way.
Several kids present during the pre-game VIP event were visibly excited to meet some real life NFL players, and to get their footballs signed by each pro. Mark, Sean and Brian, 4th and 5th graders at Holy Cross School in Rumson, were quick to tell redbankgreen how special this event was to them.
Finally, I can tell all my friends that I met a real-life NFL players, Sean said. Actually, I met a whole bunch now, I guess.
I cant wait to bring this football into school on Monday, Mark said, and Im ready to get out to the gym to watch these guys play some basketball.
The exhibition matches were surprisingly brisk-paced, and it was clear that the pros and joes werent holding anything back, with several fouls called during the opening match between the NFL players and the Lunchbreakers. But according to Allgood, keeping score came second to the overall message of the night.
Its not really about who wins or loses tonight, Allgood said, Its about giving these kids positive role models in their life and raise money for some great programs. The Y was a really important part of my life growing up, so Im glad I can contribute.
The final funds raised by the Hoops For Hope event figured in at more than $19,000, according to YMCA vice president, Andrea Plaza.