Wednesday, Brian Waters hosted his annual punt, pass, and kick competition for people with special needs at the Chiefs practice facility in conjunction with the Special Olympics. Waters has hosted the competition since the departure of former Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson, who gave the event its start in Kansas City.
“This is the part of the game a lot of people don’t get to see,” said Waters. “We’ve all been blessed to be able to have the physical abilities to be able to play, to play high profile football games. And now, to be able to share this with other people, to share this game, to share aspects of the game with kids who may be physically challenged, it’s a blessing.”
The majority of the Chiefs’ players hung around after Wednesday’s practice to help facilitate the event. Punter Dustin Colquitt gave the participants some advice on punting technique, kick returner B.J. Sams caught their kickoffs, and quarterback Damon Huard worked with them on the art of passing.
One participant named JT got the players fired up with rhythmic clapping reminiscent of Under Armor commercials and his rendition of the pre-game dance made famous by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. While it was all fun and games for most, some never forgot it was a competition, wearing receiver gloves to match their Chiefs jerseys and game faces. There were plenty of athletes on the field Wednesday, as one young man nailed three 27-yard field goals and a 65-yard punt.
Everyone received a medal at the conclusion of the event, but the special needs athletes weren’t the only ones to gain something from the experience.
“It really makes you grateful for what you have when you come out here,” said quarterback Brodie Croyle. “These kids, they’re awesome. Just look at them, they’re just thrilled to death to be out here, and it’s very humbling for us to be able to partake with them.”
Croyle knows a little bit about helping people in need. His parents started a ranch for children in need 35 years ago. It’s still in operation, and Croyle lived there for 18 years.
“I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for kids, especially in need,” he said. “It really makes it worth while to come out here and help Brian as much as we can.”
Waters, who has hosted the event for three years now, said he attracts plenty of repeat participants who have enjoyed the competition in the past.
“Sometimes they bring pictures from last year, and they want you to sign them,” he said. “It’s a great thing. The most I get out of it, this in particular, you get an opportunity to share yourself and make yourself approachable."
"I think a lot of times people think we’re not approachable because we’re professional athletes or entertainers. Really, we just want to let them know that we are approachable. We’re normal human beings and we understand where they are, and we hope they understand where we are, and we just want to be able to share our world with them.”
In that sense, Wednesday’s event was a huge success. Many of the special athletes had no problem approaching the players and acquiring autographs, high fives, and hugs.