This was no longer an ordinary high school flag football game on the turf of a smoldering stadium in East Mount Airy on Sunday afternoon.
There was a professional camera crew surrounding the players during the pre-game stretch. CBS Sports announcers sat in an end zone, preparing to call play-by-play. And Tony the Tiger, the recognizable breakfast cereal mascot, served as a coach and delivery boy with the kids.
And then Jalen Hurts took the field.
Students from the Frances Hopkinson School and Middle Years Alternative were at first stunned and then ecstatic to have the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback running the coverage during the game and discussing the plays in the meeting.
Joseph Roberts, a 13-year-old Hopkinson student, has played football for five years. But this was his first organized dance, with a camera crew and an NFL star and a cereal mascot.
“I’m surprised,” he said. “Being in this field, with Tony the Tiger, surprises me.”
Kellogg’s, which makes Frosted Flakes and other cereals, donated $75,000 from its Mission Tiger program to the Philadelphia school district to help start six girls’ flag football teams and restart three Rookie Tackle teams, a program that instructs players on the basics of the game — for children.
Footage from Sunday’s game will air as a story during CBS Sports’ coverage of in-season NFL games that begin next week.
Hurts, who called plays for four quarters in the flag football game, said the workout comes naturally. His father and his brother are soccer coaches.
“These are kids who have big dreams, you know, and they didn’t really have the resources that they needed to pursue them,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll just make a change and be a big help to them.”
Hurts grew up in Houston and remembers going to a Houston Texans practice, where wide receiver Andre Johnson gave him advice and a pair of shoes.
“I know these things go a long way, just being able to make an impact and put a smile on their faces and see them do what they love to play ball, it’s beautiful,” he said.
Being Philly, there were some tough conversations.
Tymeer Terry, a 12-year-old Hopkinson student who spent part of the game at quarterback, warned Hurts against spending too much time out of the pocket, suggesting that it exposed him to turnovers and possible injury.
“That’s bad hoo-hoo, man,” Hurts said, laughing. Terry, a pocket passer, had several completions in tight coverage, one for a touchdown.
Hurts called his friend, new Eagles wide receiver AJ Brown, during halftime, in a video conference with several of the Middle Years Alternative students in the background.
“Are those diamonds real?” one of the students asked, seeing Brown’s bling on the phone.
The School District of Philadelphia launched Rookie Tackle in 2017 as a middle school pilot program. Teams of seven players compete on a 40-yard field.
Tim Morrison, the district’s vice president of youth sports development, said the program had “slipped down” during the pandemic.
“So with this donation we are getting the equipment up and running,” he said. “We are going to be able to get different populations of students back into sports.”