CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns offensive lineman
“That’s a big message we try to convey,” Gilkey said. “We’re no different than anybody else. We’re very fortunate to be where we’re at and have an opportunity to play in the NFL, but also to show these kids that they can do and obtain the goals they set.”
It’s that same interaction that once inspired Gilkey.
A native of Sandwich, Illinois, Gilkey grew up going to Chicago Bears games with his father. The Gilkeys were in the stands when the Bears reopened Soldier Field against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 29, 2003 after 21 months of construction.
“We got there about two hours early and Brian Urlacher and Paul Edinger came out onto the field,” Gilkey said. “We were able to see them and talk to them for a few minutes. Just that interaction, knowing that there’s not that separation, that there’s not a barrier between you and a professional athlete is so powerful. Being able to show that we can talk to them, we can play with them, we can run with them, we could laugh with them, those are just very, very important things.”
During the visit to the Cleveland Browns Youth Football Camp, Gilkey and his fellow rookies served as guest instructors and took part in flag football games.
“It’s all about giving back,” Gilkey said. “I remember, growing up, these opportunities were so important to me. Being able to associate with and be around professional athletes was so impacting. Being able to show the community and these kids that we care, that these are things we enjoy, it’s very important because that’s who we are as the Browns.”
The Cleveland Browns Youth Football Camp is presented by Medical Mutual of Ohio, in association with Cleveland Clinic.