After the Watts Bears received their new cleats, Rams Defensive Lineman ETHAN WESTBROOKS joined the youth football players and LAPD officers for a Friday night practice under the lights at Dymally High School in Watts.
It wasn't his first evening practice visit, either. Westbrooks' trips to Watts to mentor young athletes is becoming one of his favorite ways to give back to the community and connect with the youth.
"Perfect timing…Ethan's here! Now we'll have even numbers for our scrimmage," said a Watts Bears player as the group began to split up in teams.
Immediately throwing on his jersey and running out on the field to greet a handful of excited youth with hugs and helmet taps, Westbrooks served as a fill-in-player and coach. He would stop plays and give instruction and encouragement to the Bears players in preparation for their game the following day. The Rams also partnered with Nike and Hav a Sol to surprise the young players with new cleats.
"I remember playing football this young. It was dream-filled, and you think you're going to be able to do this forever," said Westbrooks. "It brings back a lot of memories and I can recall what it felt like wanting to grow up and play football. That's the reason I come out here and do this. I want to show these kids that their dreams are just as important and attainable as everyone else's. If they stick to it and keep their head down, they'll be able to put on an NFL jersey one day too."
Created by LAPD officers from the Southeast Division, the Watts Bears youth football program was created to give underprivileged youth in Watts a chance to play organized sports and to positively change the historically strained relationship between police and the community of Watts. The LAPD officers serve as coaches for the student-athletes, using sports as a vehicle to introduce, reinforce and promote concepts valued in society such as strong moral character, positive values, personal responsibility and a commitment to academics.
"These experiences will always be a part of them. It'll be with them every time they hit the field," said Watts Bears Head Coach and LAPD Officer Zarren Thompson. "It shows these kids that it's not about where they're from but where they're going. It's such a blessing to know that someone like Ethan believes in their dreams and is willing to come out here and push them to achieve."
"All children need someone to look up to or someone around who they can relate to," said Westbrooks. "I want to be accessible to them and be a role model they can learn from. I believe it's my duty to help them out and watch them grow as people and as players in hopes that eventually, they can build trust, support each other, and look out for one another."
Footage from Westbrooks' first visit to a Watts Bears practice can be viewed here.
For more information about the Rams community outreach efforts, please visit therams.com/community.
Check out photos of Rams LB Samson Ebukam and DE Ethan Westbrooks visiting the Watts Bears to provide them with brand new cleats in conjunction with Nike and Hav A Sole.