Community members gathered at the new Hammond Sportsplex Saturday afternoon for the 2019 NFL Draft Pick ceremony. People enjoyed a day filled with fun family activities and celebrated with an array of young athletes who dream of entering the National Football League.
“The NFL is celebrating 100 years and Hammond actually had one of the NFL’s original teams, the Hammond Pros,” said Jim Taillon, General Manager of the Hammond Sportsplex. “We wanted to celebrate and host a kids' combine, as well as have Mayor McDermott do a few live draft picks.”
The League sought out multiple Midwest locations to host a live draft pick that were once homes to original NFL teams, but the Hammond Sportsplex was a perfect choice. George “Papa Bear” Halas, one of the co-founders of the National Football League and past owner of the Chicago Bears, once played for the Hammond Pros in his early career.
“There’s a lot of history and connections that many community members don’t know about. We’ve displayed poster boards at this event hoping to give our guests a little history lesson,” said Tallion.
Guests enjoyed a free combine activity put on by Empowering Athletes for Life. Kids of all ages were tested and timed while performing various activities similar to what athletes do when being sought out for the draft.
“Through the combine, kids get a little taste of what it takes to play at a college level and have fun in the process,” said Shane Lawson, owner of United Athlete Training. “I love what I do because I get to watch kids grow and develop. I can see their passion. I watch them have fun, smile, and continue to improve every day.”
There will be another combine event put on by Empowering Athletes for Life at the Hammond Sportsplex later this year in October. Pro athletes will be in attendance and interested attendees will learn all about what it takes to be on a collegiate team—on and off of the field.
Around 3:30 pm, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. stood among multiple community football teams and cheerleaders while addressing the nation. McDermott had the privilege to announce draft picks for the Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, and the Huston Texans.
Another notable NFL connection that tied the event together was that of Matt “Money” Smith. Smith, a former Hammond resident, currently works as a play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Chargers. Mayor McDermott wore a Chargers jersey to show support for this past community member as he announced the 6th round draft pick for the team.
“This event is a pretty cool history lesson for all of the kids. Hopefully, they will get to see all of the connections Hammond has to the League after leaving today,” said Mayor McDermott Jr.
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