Cleveland Browns' 7-on-7 youth team bring many lessons back from Indianapolis
NFL uses unique method to demonstrate the impact of social media
They had their headphones turned up loudly as they walked on the bus. They were decked out in brown and orange. They were the Cleveland Browns youth football team.
A dozen high school football players from Northeastern Ohio were selected to represent the Browns in a national 7-on-7 tournament in Indianapolis at the Colts' facility. A little more than 1,500 kids tried out for the all-star team, before the roster was whittled down to 12.
For senior running Marvelle Ross, suiting up for the Browns was one of the biggest moments in his life.
"The experience was unreal," said Ross. "We learned how the NFL works and got to learn new playbooks. It felt like we were in the league."
The Browns' youth team stormed out of the gates in the tournament. The balanced team would pick up big chunks of yards through the air and play stingy defense near the goal line. The Browns defeated the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers to open up the tournament.
Developing their skills on the field wasn't the only thing the high schoolers took away from their summer trip to Indianapolis. NFL players met with the students, teaching them about how to be self-aware on social media and how to avoid making bad decisions that could derail promising football careers.
The social media exercise was an impactful one. Unbeknownst the high school athletes, NFL representatives looked up all of the kids' social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If the kid posted something provocative on social media, he would be called to the front of the auditorium and be required to read it in front of all of his peers. The message about social media was loud and clear: you don't need to broadcast your every waking thought to the world.
When the tournament turned into a March Madness style bracket, the Browns were eventually upset by the Bengals. The boys representing Cleveland stormed back to erase a 28-point deficit, before falling short.
On paper, a trip to Indianapolis may not seem like the biggest deal for developing our youth. But the results of the camaraderie and the life lessons could help a teenager steer clear of making a poor decision