BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – The Louis Murphy, Jr. 1st Downs 4 Life™ all-star weekend kicked off Thurs., July 10 at the Hilton in downtown St. Pete with the Welcome Gala to rally continued support for the organization’s efforts to prime youth for future success.
Murphy’s philanthropic community organization has worked alongside Mt. Zion Human Services since 2008 to conduct an annual non-contact youth football camp in St. Petersburg that teaches today’s youth fundamental football skills while stressing the importance of academic excellence, teamwork, creating a strong moral compass and the perseverance needed to succeed in the game of life.
Murphy, a product of Mt. Zion Human Services and one of eight NFL draftees from the Lakewood High School football program, spoke about his commitment to reach back into his community to help the youth of today become the leaders of tomorrow.
“In our community there are so many kids that are left behind. They are led astray and peer pressured into doing negative things,” said Murphy as he stressed that everyone has the obligation to help keep the youth on the right track.
“If we don’t do it, who will,” Murphy asked the crowd. He went on to say that every day he asks himself the question that Dr. Martin Luther King posed to a crowd in Montgomery, Ala. in 1957, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’
Murphy wants to do more, much more. He shared his thoughts on what he would like to do in the future to help young people in this community be prepared for the world’s challenges.
“My goal and vision is to open up a Willy Wonka factory of education. And when I say Willy Wonka I really mean Willy Wonka,” he said as he explained that his safe-haven would be a place where kids will feel secure and can learn, build self-esteem and discipline and could get help with their schoolwork and further their education – a 1st Downs 4 Life™ safe haven.
Murphy’s future three million dollar campus would consist of a music studio, basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis courts, a television production studio and whatever else the community felt would be needed to help the youth get ready for their future.
He also urged his supporters to be an anchor for all the children in the community who are suffering such as the ones “without grandparents, the kids that are born and instantly given to foster homes, the kids whose parents died of AIDS, the kids who cannot afford shoes to walk to the bus stop, the kids who wishes someone would help them and lend a helping hand to their family, the kid that is in the eighth grade and reading at a third grade level, the little girl who is raped and with child, the kid whose mother died of breast cancer. We are all fortunate enough and blessed enough to help in some capacity.”
Ryan Oldendick, Walgreens district manager, shared why his company and 1st Downs 4 Life™ would make an ideal partnership since their slogan is, “At the corner of happiness and healthiness.”
“It is really crucial for me to make sure that organizations [we support] have those same beliefs. And after researching 1st Downs 4 Life™, I found that it aligns perfectly with our vision of how we want to treat our community,” said Oldendick.
He went on to praise Murphy’s football camp and teen summit projects for “teaching kids the things they will need to be successful in life such as discipline, teamwork, and building self-esteem,” Oldendick finished.
Louis Murphy, Jr. is a former University of Florida football star and Lakewood High School standout. He was drafted as a wide receiver by the Oakland Raiders in 2009. Before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in March, he played for the Carolina Panthers in 2012 and New York Giants in 2013. He founded the camp in 2008 while a senior at UF.