Leading up to the Rams NFC Championship matchup against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 30, the Rams and Nike hosted Watts Rams youth football players for a special surprise at Dymally High School.
Rams Cheerleaders and mascot Rampage greeted the Watts Rams players, coaches and their families as they arrived at Dymally High School, where the Watts Rams play their home games, for the surprise of a lifetime. Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. virtually joined the event to present 19 Watts Rams players with tickets to Super Bowl LVI.
"Today, Odell Beckham Jr. surprised us and it was a great experience," said Watts Rams player Keiland Johnson. "I was shocked. I grew up loving football. Since I was five years old, I have always dreamed of going to the NFL and now that I have the chance to go to the Super Bowl and watch the Rams play… I'm super excited."
Beckham Jr. participated in an open Q&A with the Watts Rams players discussing his career, the importance of living in the moment and perseverance.
"To speak to him, one of my idols, was truly a blessing," said Watts Rams player Evan Williams. "I was shaking in the moment. I literally couldn't believe it. Honestly, I'm thankful, super thankful, and super blessed."
The Super Bowl ticket surprise, provided by the NFL, was a part of a season-long incentive program for Watts Rams players who participated in the NFL's We Run as One kickoff commercial and showcased academic excellence and strong character on and off the field throughout the season.
"Today is special," said Marc Maye, Watts Rams general manager. "Kids got rewarded for their efforts off the field. That's important to highlight because we recognize that we are a football team, but we like to make sure that these kids know, these parents know, and that the whole community knows that we are more than a football team. We want to be the voice of the community. We want the community to come together on behalf of the Watts Rams. So, how do we do that by just teaching football? We can't. We have to teach these kids life skills off the field. We have to teach these kids how to be a part of something bigger than the game. These kids today were recognized because of that."
Following the Super Bowl ticket surprise, Watts Rams players were taken outside for a mural unveiling by LA muralist Gustavo Zermeño, who is known for his larger-than-life portraits of sports heroes, celebrities and iconic musicians.
The Watts Rams watched the unveiling of two new Rams murals at Dymally High School and were surprised by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. who presented them with tickets to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
"What the Rams do here is show kids that they are stronger and smarter than they think. It all comes down to having that support," said Zermeño.
This is the second beautification project the Rams have led at Dymally High School. In 2018, the Rams joined with their team partner, City Year Los Angeles, to paint murals on the walls of the Dymally campus to inspire current and future students. As part of this year's beautification project, Zermeño created two murals featuring imagery of current Rams and Watts Rams players.
"When I saw my face up there… it's a blessing to be on the wall. It's just an honor," said Watts Rams player Noah Williams.
Entering the 2019 season, the Los Angeles Rams formalized their support of the Watts Rams (formerly known as the Watts Bears) and the LAPD's efforts to bridge community and police relations through the game of football. As part of the partnership, the Los Angeles Rams fund all components of the Watts Rams program, including uniforms and equipment. Each year, the Rams provide engagement opportunities with current players, alumni, coaches, scouts, football operations and front office staff to help expand their knowledge and ignite their passions beyond the playing field.
"The LA Rams are the face of LA when it comes to football," said Maye. "When the LA Rams came back, they came back with a vengeance. They came back to not only win but win the support of the city and they have done that. Before partnering with them, we were just big fans, so this partnership is huge because our young people get to see that they're directly connected to something special. It helps them perform better and it helps them act better because they understand that this partnership is because of them, and they must do their part to keep this partnership going. It helps them stay in check and it helps us use that in a way to keep them motivated and encouraged. It also means something for the city because the city is being recognized in ways that it doesn't usually get recognized. The LA Rams Community Relations team and the whole organization are allowing that to happen. It's bringing a light to Watts, California, that people don't know about. People don't know about all the special things that happen down here because they are untold stories, but this is allowing us to tell stories that are just off the charts. The partnership has been amazing, and we are just so thankful and blessed."
The Watts Rams players also were surprised with jerseys, courtesy of Nike, and t-shirts featuring Beckham Jr. and Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
To learn more about the Rams' community efforts, please visit www.therams.com/community.