August was a special month for the Cleveland Browns as we celebrated Play Football Month. This month-long celebration was filled with various activities that recognized the efforts of youth athletes, coaches, families and communities. The festivities included clinics, camps, grant opportunities and unique football activities that were aimed at encouraging and promoting the sport in the region.
Play Football Month was a culmination of the organization's year-round recognition of youth and high school football athletes, which aimed at highlighting the talent, character, values and achievements of young football players across the state of Ohio.
On Aug. 1, the Cleveland Browns Training Camp launched with a bang as it hosted the first-ever Jr. Browns Classic, a one-day, four-team single elimination flag football tournament. Young athletes from the Cleveland Muny Football League – comprising of the Richmond Heights Conquerors, Garden Valley Falcons, Maple Heights Saints and Glenville Elite Panthers – put their skills to the test on the field for all to witness. The Jr. Browns flag football program is a youth football advancement initiative that aligns with the Browns' commitment to lead the advancement of youth football and get more kids playing football.
The young teams that participated in the Jr. Browns Classic exhibited an impressive level of enthusiasm, talent and competitiveness. The Glenville Elite Panthers emerged as the tournament's champions, earning the coveted custom championship jerseys and swag bags presented by TE David Njoku, while the Richmond Heights conquerors received swag bags from WR Donovan Peoples-Jones. The event was graced by the presence of football stars such as QB Deshaun Watson, WR Elijah Moore, QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and DT Siaki Ika, who congratulated both teams for their outstanding performances.
The Jr. Browns Classic showcased the immense potential and talent of young athletes while adding a new layer of excitement to training camp. The event was a resounding success and a testament to the Browns' commitment to promoting the sport of football among young players. This was an incredible experience for the young athletes that participated and an exciting addition to the Cleveland Browns 2023 Training Camp activations.
Following the Jr. Browns Classic, 200 athletes spanning across 10 teams attended our Rookie Tackle Clinic at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus Training facility. During this clinic, athletes sharpened their skills as they worked on all the basics, from passing and kicking to blocking and defense. Following the clinic, all athletes gathered in the end zone for a major surprise. The University Hospitals Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Jacob Calcei addressed the health and safety of playing football and touched on University Hospitals Sports Medicine Program that offers comprehensive specialty and subspecialty care for athletes of all ages and every skill level. After addressing the health and safety, the Cleveland Browns revealed 200 custom Xenith helmets, decked out with stripes and logos, which came as an exciting surprise for the young athletes to kick off their season. The 10 teams in attendance each received 20 helmets for their Rookie Tackle teams.
The helmet reveal set the stage for what was to come throughout the rest of Play Football Month and our "Bring The Dawgs Out" program brought a new level of excitement to the Cleveland Browns' training camp. This program has allowed young athletes to interact directly with their favorite players, creating an unforgettable experience for both the youth athletes and our Browns players. It's amazing to see the enthusiasm and energy of the young football players as they form a gauntlet for the Browns players to run through.
Not only does this program provide an exciting experience for the young athletes, but it also allows them to witness firsthand the hard work and dedication required to become a professional football player. The Browns players serve as role models for these young athletes, inspiring them to pursue their own dreams and goals. Throughout training camp, the Browns invited out eight different youth football leagues and four hundred athletes from across Northeast Ohio and the state to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The Cleveland Browns and USA Football hosted a Play Football Clinic for young athletes in Northeast Ohio, which was held following the Browns vs. Jets preseason game, and welcomed 200 boys and girls between the ages of eight and 14. Whether the participants were new to the game or seasoned veterans, they were able to take part in a range of activities designed to help them hone their skills and have fun.
The Play Football Clinic included informative lectures, hands-on instruction, fundamental football skills stations, contests and non-contact games. The high-energy, positive environment was perfect for young athletes looking to improve their game, make new friends and have a great time. Browns Alumni Hanford Dixon, Greg Pruitt and Ben Davis were on site to assist with drills and share their football journeys. Additionally, NFL Vice President of Football Development & Browns Alumni Roman Oben was on site sharing his experience and expertise with the young athletes participating.
The Browns vs. Commanders preseason game was not only a highly anticipated event, but also a platform for promoting youth football in the local community. As part of the Play Football Month celebration, over 800 tickets were distributed to local youth football teams, providing them with an exciting opportunity to attend the game and witness their idols in action.
In addition, the game also saw the participation of several high school football teams and officials. Five OHSAA Football officials were invited for an in-game featured scoreboard moment, recognizing their contribution towards the sport. Avon High School held the U.S. Flag during the national anthem, while a representative from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Senate Athletic League sang the anthem, adding a touch of local flavor to the event.
The event also gave an opportunity for girls' high school flag football teams to showcase their skills during halftime. Four teams – Mentor, Hawken, Warrensville Heights and Bedford – competed in an exhibition game under the lights.
During pre-game, a rookie tackle athlete from Perry (Stark) Youth Football was chosen to walk with our Browns Team Captains for the coin toss. Following kickoff in the first and second half, we had athletes from the Perry Pirates and the Lou Groza Youth Football who served as our kickoff kids. As the kickoff kid, they have an opportunity to shine on a big stage and run onto the field to retrieve the tee after kickoff.
As we kicked off our Browns preseason games, we also launched a mini documentary called "A New Era: The Girls Flag Football Story in Northeast Ohio." The documentary highlighted the impressive growth of Girl's High School Flag Football throughout Northeast Ohio. In just one year, the number of teams playing the sport increased from nine to 30 teams, showcasing the engagement, growth and expansion of the sport in the region.
The Girls High School Flag Football celebration continued at the Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, where the Willoughby South Girls High School Flag Football team was recognized on-field during the Browns vs. Jets preseason game. The team was acknowledged for their accomplishments as the Cleveland Browns Girls High School Flag Football Championship in their team's inaugural year.
The Cleveland Browns' support for girls' high school flag football is a significant step towards promoting gender equality in sports. This initiative encourages young women to participate in sports, develop their athletic skills and pursue their passions. By highlighting the achievements of the Willoughby South Girls High School Flag Football team, the Cleveland Browns are focused on inspiring young women to reach for their goals and continue to excel in sports. Interested in starting a Girls Flag team at your high school? Send us an email here.
We continued the celebration through our High School HELMETS sweepstakes program, where teams, coaches, fans and communities can nominate an Ohio high school football program for a chance to win $25,000 worth of new Xenith helmets. Two Ohio high schools will receive new helmets courtesy of Meijer, University Hospitals and Xenith Helmets. Send in a nomination for a high school football program for this year's sweepstakes here.
This year, Charles F. Brush High School (Lyndhurst, Ohio) and Liberty High School (Youngstown, Ohio) won the HELMETS sweepstakes. Both teams were invited to attend an exclusive Browns walk-through practice, where they were surprised with their custom helmets to kick off their fall football season! Brush High School was greeted by QB Deshaun Watson, who distributed their surprise helmets. Whereas Liberty high school's helmets were distributed by CB Greg Newsome II, CB Martin Emerson and CB Denzel Ward.
These helmets will ensure the safety of young players is a priority and help them enjoy the sport to the fullest. The HELMETS program allows us to give back to our communities and support young athletes in their quest to become future stars.
The Cleveland Browns are marking Play Football Month by bringing back the High School Game of the Week for the 14th consecutive season. This initiative will last until the end of the 2023 high school football season. With the help of the High School Game of the Week panelists, one high school football game in Northeast Ohio will be chosen each week to be featured as the High School Game of the Week, presented by Ohio CAT and in association with Foreverlawn. The winning team from each Game of the Week during the 10 weeks of the high school football regular season will receive $2,500 for their program. Moreover, the Browns will announce the High School Coach of the Year at the end of the season, who will be awarded an additional $5,000 for their program. To vote for the High School Game of the Week, click here.
The first High School Game of the Week featured matchup was part of the Nike Kickoff Classic. The Nike Kickoff Classic is a collaboration between Nike, the NFL and clubs that allows participating boys' and girls' high school teams to have a shared kickoff experience in their local markets. The Kickoff Classic began with four girls' high school flag football teams that competed during halftime of the Browns vs. Commanders preseason game on Aug. 11. The Girls HS Flag exhibition matchups included Mentor—Bedford and Hawken—Warrensville Heights. The Kickoff Classic culminated with the Euclid—Austintown-Fitch game on Aug. 18 at Euclid High School. Both teams will also receive an additional $2,500 for their program for participating in the Kickoff Classic. Austintown-Fitch earned an additional $2,500 for their victory over Euclid in the Week 1 High School Game of the Week matchup.
The Cleveland Browns are committed to advancing the game of youth and high school football throughout Northeast Ohio with year-round programming for players, coaches, officials and parents. Through camps, clinics and other initiatives, the Browns' goal is to promote the healthy, social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of youth by enhancing opportunities for youth football participation and education opportunities.