Special Skills Football Invitational

Disabled athletes embrace chance to learn

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Jeff Brewer considers himself an avid Ohio State football fan.

That's why his experience at Hilliard Bradley High School on July 10 was special, as members of the Ohio State program and former NFL players participated in a clinic for athletes with developmental disabilities.

Goodwill Columbus sponsored the second annual Special Skills Football Invitational.

"It's been fun learning the different skills like agility, blocking, catching the football, throwing the football," said the 45-year-old Brewer, a member of the Goodwill Gladiator program. "It was really exciting to hear that (Ohio State players) were actually going to be here."

About 200 athletes registered for the event, with nearly 100 volunteers also participating. Last year, 96 participated.

There were seven 15-minute sessions focused on basic skills, with an emphasis on speed, agility, quarterback and running back skills, wide receiver and defensive back skills and blocking and tackling.

The football players described and demonstrated each station to the athletes before participating in the drills, providing guidance, support and encouragement. Participants included athletes who competed in the USA Special Olympics held June 14-21 in Princeton, N.J.

"It's a fun day for everybody," said event coordinator Steve Weaver, the Special Olympics coordinator for Goodwill Columbus. "I've been coaching all sports since I was about 14 years old. This is so much fun, especially seeing these guys trying to do these kinds of drills. It's a blast."

For Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry, the clinic was special since his family has been affected by developmental disabilities. Perry's brother, Jahred, is a former participant in Special Olympics through the Delaware County chapter.

"I have a lot of experience doing events like this, so anytime we can get a group of guys to come out it's a good thing to do," Perry said. "My little brother used to participate in Special Olympics up in Delaware County, so this is near and dear to me. I just love being out here and getting to pay forward a little bit.

"They just love being out here. They love the competition and it's great because they're big Ohio State fans, so they love meeting Buckeyes."

Perry is a 2012 graduate of Olentangy, where he was named first-team all-district in Division I and first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division his senior season after rushing for 1,021 yards and 17 touchdowns on 146 carries. He also had 65 tackles, six sacks and one interception.

Center Chad Lindsay, a transfer from the University of Alabama, also was part of the Ohio State contingent.

Although he just moved to the area June 1, Lindsay said it's important to participate in these community-emphasized events.

"When I was in high school we always did this every year for kids," Lindsay said. "It's always great. I love coming out here and doing this."

Other Ohio State players at the event were linebacker Camren Williams, wide receiver Kato Mitchell and offensive lineman Darryl Baldwin. Also attending were former NFL and Ohio State players James Cotton, Jim Karsatos and Courtland Bullard.

Ohio State's mascot, Brutus Buckeye, and members of the cheerleading team also participated.

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