Head Coach Mark Richt has already made a huge impact so far this season. He has led his team to a 4-0 record to start, inspired not only those on his team but around the city and brought excitement back to the Miami football program. However, Richt has been making a difference in the community before the season even started.
During the summer, Richt and members of his staff began paying weekly visits to parks around South Florida to talk to local youth football teams. Last Thursday was Richt’s final park visit, and he made his way to Mills Pond Park in Ft. Lauderdale to speak to the Ft. Lauderdale Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes, who are a part of the Florida Youth Football League, gathered around on the football field in their uniforms and kneeled on one knee as Richt began to talk. The players listened intently, as the coach stressed the importance of having the right principles in life, getting good grades and having passion for the sport of football.
“It’s been great to just be out here with these kids and just see real positive things happen,” Richt said. “This sport means so much for the lives of these young men and the lessons that are taught by it. They work so hard at it, and it gives them motivation to work hard in other areas of their life.”
After the encouraging words, Richt huddled together with the players and said a prayer for the group.
“I got passion for this sport and for these young people,” Richt said. “Just to see all these kids out here and knowing that football is alive and well here in South Florida did my heart good.”
Many wonder why Richt and his crew chose to make these weekly visits for so long, especially during the season with his hectic schedule.
“Just watching them do their thing, especially the little ones,” Richt said with a smile when asked about what he enjoys most about coming to the parks. “We wanted to get into our community and bless it any way we can.”
League President Jamaal Gaines talked about the type of effect that Richt has had on the organization.
“For our program and the city of Ft. Lauderdale, it is an excellent opportunity,” Gaines said. “We can’t be thankful enough to have Coach Richt for you guys here today to give these kids this kind of opportunity.”
Despite the possibility that some of these young athletes could very well come to the U someday, Richt prefers to focus on what he believes drives kids most to play the sport.
“It’s about friendship,” Richt said. “Most kids who answer the question of why they play football, it’s because they want to be with their friends.”
Isaiah Kim-Martinez can be reached on Twitter at @isaiah5740.