Barnidge teaches football to the youth in Brazil
A few years ago, Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge was sitting in his college apartment in Louisville with his friends Breno Giacomini and Ahmed Awadallah.
The trio was brainstorming. How could they change the world?
"Yeah, we play football and all that," Barnidge said. "But we're not anything special. We're just normal guys. We wanted to do something to make a difference."
Thus, American Football Without Barriers (AFWB) was born. The non-profit organization's goal is spreading the game of American football to international countries.
In 2013, Barnidge organized and planned a two day camp in China. Brazil was chosen for 2014. Browns players Jordan Cameron, Alex Mack and Barkevious Mingo joined Barnidge as instructors. Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate accompanied Giacomini, then a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
Drills ranged from agility, to passing and catching, to even how to tackle the correct way.
"We don't know if they are getting taught the proper way to hit," said Barnidge. "In Brazil they have about 20 teams that play professional football. In China they have six teams. The goal is to get them to continue to play football."
More than 170 Brazilians between the ages of 8-25 showed up for the event. Fans packed the stands just to get a glimpse at the foreign frenzy that is American football. Barnidge secured a field from Guaraviton, a local soccer club in Rio de Janiero. He and his foundation brought cleats, pads and other essentials with them to properly train their campers. The NFL players go sightseeing at night and visit an orphanage before they head back to America.
However, there is one obstacle to overcome: The language barrier.
"I try and learn a little bit of the language before I go," Barnidge said. "But it's not very easy. You have to use Rosetta Stone. And you have to have google translator on your phone."
"But there are interpreters there. Football is universal. They watch the sport and know what we do and stuff like that. And they can pick up and learn just by watching."
One major highlight for AFWB so far was a development that came out of the China camp. An 18-year-old named Kevin blossomed so much from the instruction, that a D-III school offered him a scholarship. Kevin opted to study at Stanford instead, but it means the work Barnidge and his staff are putting in is paying off.
"That was awesome," said Barnidge. "Just seeing everyone's faces in general. The kids are really enjoying it."
Barnidge, Giacomini and Awadallah are sitting down in May to pick 2015's destination. They are thinking somewhere in Africa. By then, paperwork should be back from the government officially declaring AFWB a certified 501(c3) non-profit organization. They want to spread more awareness of their foundation to raise money for more equipment. And continue to do what they can to make a difference.