NFL youth program comes to Cincinnati

The National Football League has developed an introductory/developmental youth football program for boys ages 12-to-14, and the program will be conducted in Cincinnati this month, with more than 125 youths signed up to participate at Taft High School.

Known as the NFL Junior Player Development League, the program works as a "basic 'Football 101' course," said Eric Martin, athletic director at Taft.

"We're taking middle school kids and teaching them everything from how to put on a full uniform to how you get in a three-point stance," Martin said. "It's going to help these kids get ready to play in the fall, and eventually, it can improve the quality of the players coming our for our high school programs."

The NFL and the Riddell Corp. are providing full football gear for use by the players during the camp. All participants also receive counseling through a life skills/character development curriculum incorporated throughout all on-field activities. The camp will be led by Taft High head coach Mike Martin and his assistants.

The camp begins this Saturday, when players report to be fitted for their uniforms. Workouts begin Monday, July 14. The camp will conclude on July 26.

Bengals LB Adrian Ross came through in a big way late last month for the community of Sacramento, Calif., his off-season home.

Ross helped recruit a number of NFL colleagues -- including Cincinnati's Corey Dillon , T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Armegis Spearman and Lamont Thompson -- for

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a series of community events to encourage education and youth sports activity. The events ran from June 19 through June 21.

The final event of "Saturate the Community" weekend was a celebrity basketball game, in which Ross and his NFL colleagues prevailed over a team from the Sacramento Police and Sheriff's departments. The game helped to raise money for the kick off of "The Foundation of the Maddbacker", Ross' non-profit organization designed to support youth education and sports.

Ross and other players also visited the Shriners' Hospital, meeting with more than 30 children to discuss the importance of education with a strong focus on literacy. Ross distributed 100 books, donated by Borders Book Stores in his hometown of Elk Grove, Calif.

The players also signed autographs to help spur donations to the Sacramento Activities League, honored Flag Football tournament award recipients from all over California, and assisted more than 300 athletes in a high school football camp.

Safety JoJuan Armour will be honored as Cincinnati Bengal of the Year at the 8th Annual March of Champions banquet on July 20 at the Cincinnati Gardens.

The event honors local amateur and professional athletes and coaches for their accomplishments on the field and in the community. Proceeds will benefit the March of Dimes mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality.

This year's event theme is 'The Sports Fan's Dream,' and attendees will have the opportunity to bid on several unique auction packages, have excellent photo opportunities and participate in various sports fun stations.

Tickets are available through the March of Dimes office at (513) 769-3588. Prices are $45 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under, and the ticket price includes food, beverages and entertainment for the evening. Tables of eight are available for $435. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

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