Simultaneously, Danny Shelton was in and out of his comfort zone Wednesday at Cleveland's Michael Zone Recreation Center.
Surrounded by smiling, laughing kids who had no idea he'd be inside the gym just a few minutes earlier, Shelton was in his element, making those around him feel the joy he shows every moment he's on and off the field. But then, it was time to shoot hoops. And, well, that's not exactly at the top of the defensive lineman's list of strengths.
"I had to get him at his weakness," said Ricky Smith, the founder of Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere. "He's got little arms."
As Smith, one of organizers of Wednesday's surprise event, poked a little fun at him, Shelton's smile grew even wider. It was non-stop fun on a day that saw the Browns and R.A.K.E. collaborate to #give10 and deliver more than 300 footballs, courtesy of the Browns, to members of all four Cleveland Police Athletic Leagues and local youths.
"It was great," Shelton said. "I got to meet some of the coaches for the PAL league. Just really being here and giving the footballs out to the kids and coaches, it really meant a lot to them but at the same time it meant a lot to me."
That feeling was mutual with Ward 15 councilman Matt Zone and Cleveland Police Sergeant Jennifer Ciaccia, both of whom got in on the fun with the children, who tossed footballs, shot hoops and took selfies with Shelton, Smith, Chomps and Browns staff members.
As part of National R.A.K.E. Day, Cleveland Browns staff members assembled the gift packages at FirstEnergy Stadium before delivering them to youth football players and other kids at the recreation center.
"To have the Cleveland Browns recognize how important that next generation of scholar-athlete is and have them come out to the rec center in our community is really gratifying," Zone said. "Many of these children who come here come from single households. They don't have that role model and they look up to big Danny Shelton and see this big lovable teddy bear who is ferocious on the field but a gentle giant off the field. I'm very appreciative."
"Donations like this and getting together with the Browns organization is absolutely awesome," Ciaccia said. "The kids get such a kick out of meeting the players. To have these footballs to hand out during the course of the season is awesome. It's a really special thing for the Browns to do."
The impact of the event wasn't taken lightly by Shelton, who pinpointed a similar moment in his childhood with members of the San Francisco 49ers that left a major impact on him.
Even as Smith gave Shelton a hard time for his jump shot, he saw just how much of an impact he made on the children who surrounded him.
"I think he gets it and it means so much to the kids in there and it takes so little," Smith said. "We show up and throw the football around. Those memories last."
The Browns are dedicated to #give10 through the team's First and Ten initiative. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. For more information, visit www.ClevelandBrowns.com/community.
The Cleveland Browns are committed to assisting the development, safety and growth 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 healthy, social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of youth by enhancing opportunities for youth football participation and education.