All these years later, Damar Hamlin still has the pictures and signed footballs.

For him, it’s a reminder of how one person – in this case, Pittsburgh Steelers legend Troy Polamalu – can have such a huge impact on a kid’s path in life.“It’s real important to make a difference in a kid’s life,” Hamlin said. “I remember times when I was younger, doing camps with people like Troy Polamalu. It plays a big role and it inspired me.”

Not only did it inspire Hamlin to reach his dream of becoming a professional football player, but it’s also why he made a point to be a part of the inaugural NFLPA Community Day during Super Bowl week in Arizona.

Fourteen players from across the NFL came out to Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School on February 9 to connect with students for a field day filled with fun football activities, games, food, music and prizes. The NFLPA also donated $5,000 towards the school’s resources and supplies. And on behalf of NFLPA charitable partner The Conscious Kid, a variety of diversity-based books were given out to aid student literacy.

No appearance fees were necessary for these players. Their payout was paying it forward, all while reliving their days in the schoolyard. On one end of the field, Darren Waller and Christian Kirksey joyfully coached kids through a football-based obstacle course. On the other end, Jahan Doston and Laquon Treadwell cheered on students as they ran short routes before catching passes thrown by the NFL wide receivers.

First and foremost, we’re human beings; we were just like them at one point in our life. We want them to know they can do anything they want if they put their mind to it, put in effort and believe.

Charles Leno Jr., Washington Commanders offensive lineman

While Leno’s elementary school days may be far behind him, the “big kid” vibes are still strong in the nine-year NFL veteran. Check out how he was especially spirited during the “Rock Paper Scissors Hula Hoop Showdown” station in the video below:

The event put a bow on the latest NFLPA Community MVP campaign, which completed its ninth year of honoring one player each week during the season for pouring back into their hometown or team city. Along with a $10,000 donation to the player’s charity of choice, this past season’s 18 honorees were immortalized with their own digital magazine covers commemorating their outreach efforts. And on Community Day, those illustrations dreamt up by supporting partner HEARTLENT Group came to life.

Not only did the 70 students get to actually meet Community MVPs like Hamlin, Leno and Waller, but they also received gift bags featuring a special print magazine that compiled all of this past season’s cover spreads as well as a pack of 18 Community MVP trading cards.

As the field day drew to a close, students clamored for the players to autograph a magazine, card, T-shirt or even their arm – anything to secure one more lasting memory from this special experience.

“I’m pretty sure doing things like this will inspire them,” Hamlin said. “Anything to help the next generation and keep doors open for the people coming after us, that’s my purpose and a big reason for why we all should be doing this."

Special shoutout to these players for participating in the inaugural NFLPA Community Day:

Tae Davis
Jahan Dotson
Chris Draft
Andrew Dowell
Damar Hamlin
Christian Kirksey
Jonathan Ledbetter
Charles Leno Jr.
Zach Moore
Laquon Treadwell
Marcus Smith II
Malik Turner
Darren Waller

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