Gridiron dreams: Manitoba kids become NFL pros for a day

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Gridiron dreams: Manitoba kids become NFL pros for a day

Hundreds of Manitoba kids "drafted" into the big leagues were put through their paces Saturday by members of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.

The NFL Play 60 campaign touched down at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg to re-create the life of a gridiron star — albeit at an accelerated pace, with a league draft, skill development, touchdown celebrations and an interview with the press happening in only a few hours.

More than 600 children registered to take part in the event, which included appearances from Vikings defensive end Tashawn Bower, running back C.J. Ham and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Carl Lee.

The "60" in the campaign name refers to the desired 60 minutes a day every child should spend engaged in physical activity, according to Health Canada. The league wants to encourage healthy lifestyles among the sport's youngest boosters.

"This is one of the NFL's greatest events," said Lee, who spent 11 of his 12 NFL seasons with the Vikings. "It's involving kids. It's involving youth having fun and interacting with former players. There's nothing better than that."

Youth sports are one way that youngsters can obtain an hour of physical activity.

"You've got a lot of kids that are not going to play football, but they're out here having fun and being active — I think that's critical for longtime health."

Ham has found football invaluable to his life.

"It taught me discipline, taught me how to be accountable, how to be a teammate," he said. "We're trying to show these kids what it's like to be part of a team and all work together."

Jeremy Desrochers brought his son Brody to the event to run around and rub shoulders with Vikings past and present.

Not even Saturday's scorching heat, with temperatures in the 30s, could ruin the fun, Brody said.

"It's super fun. I love it — and because of my helmet, I'm so hot."