Ahead of one of the longest-standing rivalry games in the country, known as the 'East LA Classic' featuring James A. Garfield and Theodore Roosevelt High Schools, the Los Angeles Rams teamed up with Nike® to celebrate the magnitude of the contest for the teams, the schools and the community. For nearly 80 years, the rivalry contest has been deep-rooted in the heart of the East LA community, drawing crowds of up to 25,000 fans every year.
On Tuesday, October 23, Nike and the Rams surprised each of the participating high schools with full locker room takeovers along with brand new head-to-toe gear to wear during the game. Revealing the surprises was Rams star Defensive Tackle NDAMUKONG SUH, who also recognized each of the head coaches as Rams "Coach of the Week" honorees before presenting them a check for their extraordinary football programs.
"It's always great to see the expressions on kid's faces, their excitement and their joy," said Suh. "I think the kids enjoyed every bit of this. I knew they were happy to see me, which certainly was a great feeling. But they were also thrilled to see their new jerseys, gear and the kits provided by Nike…I hope these kids take away humility. Hopefully we were able to show them that hard work pays off and that people take notice. After visiting both schools, you could really see that this rivalry harnesses both mutual respect and complete competition."
Check out photos of Ndamukong Suh's surprise at Garfield HS when he donated brand new uniforms prior to the East LA Classic
Later in the week, representatives of the Rams and Nike were on-hand at each school's gameday pep rally to amplify the excitement for the upcoming game. Music was provided by Power106 FM and students were able to enjoy entertainment, Rams & Nike branded giveaways and photo opportunities.
"I think to have something like this tells kids that they're important," said Kui Kahooilihala, Head Coach of Roosevelt High School's varsity football team. "This is a professional team and a major corporation showing that they want to have a relationship with these schools and with the East LA community. I think this event and their support really highlighted the positives of who our kids are and what this community represents."
At the game on the evening of Friday, October 26, the Rams and Nike gave away limited-edition T-shirts, along with red and blue rally towels for the first 16,000 fans in attendance. On-site at the game was also a "Vamos Rams" themed car and helmet display for photo opportunities along with inflatables for youth.
"Now that the Rams are back in LA, they've joined efforts with Nike and have been able to put some things together for our kids bringing gear to both of our schools," said Lorenzo Hernandez, Head Coach of Garfield High School's varsity football team. "They're really making this game much more exciting, especially with Suh's visit and their contributions to both of our schools and our community. We can't thank them enough."
All Los Angeles Rams High School Coach of the Week recipients receive a $1,000 donation and $1,000 in products from Gatorade. Honorees are awarded by emphasizing the significance of education and community stewardship along with their embodiment of leadership and character.
Footage from Suh's surprise school visits can be viewed here.
If you'd like to know more about the Rams Coach of the Week program, please visit therams.com/coach-of-the-week.
For more information about the Rams community engagement initiatives, please visit therams.com/community.