After a training camp practice last month, Josh McCown remembers how he felt following a tough session and how it promptly changed upon seeing members of the Adapted Football League, which is supported by the Cleveland Browns Foundation and facilitated by Achievement Centers for Children.
"It wasn't a really good practice for me for whatever reason," the veteran quarterback said Tuesday on Cleveland Browns Daily as part of the club's third-annual Radiothon, "and I was walking around the field doing our thing after practice and came upon that group and seeing their faces, the faces of the families" changed everything."
McCown was one of several Browns players to spend time with those in in the organization — which supports children with both cognitive and/or developmental delays and those with physical limitations — and the families in attendance.
"They have a special place in my heart," said McCown, who will match whatever is raised through an auction to "Play Catch and Learn to Be a Pro" with the 14-year quarterback up to $13,000. All of his funds will go directly to the Adapted Football League.
"For me, I have two cousins that have special needs, two cousins that are special needs, kind of a longtime friend and spiritual mentor back home has four kids — two of them are special needs — so I kind of understand what they go through and what those families go through," he continued.
"I think sometimes we can take that for granted, just in our day-to-day life. I have four kids myself and the things that we go through and we don't have nearly those battles that families with special needs deal with so that day of practice, it was fun."
Founded in 2011, the Adapted Football League is separating into two divisions, and the league is able to support players of all abilities. Division I is played on a grass field without any assistive equipment, and Division II is a power/manual wheelchair league played on a hardtop surface. Athletes and volunteers got together every Saturday for eight weeks to enhance their skill development, socialization and physical activity. Those building blocks helped prepare participants for achievement and growth in the future.
"We talked about what we can do for the Adapted Football League and what they're doing for those kids and to play catch with them and see their face light up because they're able to go out there and do things that they see us do on TV and to play on the same field," McCown said.
"It was just a special day and so from then on I just said, 'Hey I want to do something that can bring value to these families because it's something that means a lot to me and it's a way that we can let them know that we value your process and what you go through every day and that we understand.
"We may not completely understand where you're coming from but we want to make that a better life for you and if helping fund the Adapted Football League and those moments makes it better for those kids and those families and makes them smile then it's worth it."