1st Downs 4 Life™ All-Star charity weekend

1st Down 4 Life All-Star Charity Weekend, Louis Murphy

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.

 

Reedy and manning up

ReedyWhen researching the 1st Downs 4 Life™ organization, Walgreens District Manager Ryan Oldendick possibly read about Bernard Reedy, one of the success stories that Louis Murphy’s organization can lay claim to.

Reedy was a Toledo Rockets All-American Wide Receiver who recently graduated and signed on with the Atlanta Falcons. While attending the Welcome Gala last Thursday night, he felt it necessary to share his story with our readers.

“In ninth and tenth grade, I really wasn’t trying to hear what anybody was trying to tell me,” said Reedy, reflecting back on the brashness of his early years at Lakewood High School.

However, he did have a dream and he wanted to achieve it. But how?

“I had a passion for what I wanted to do, but you know the only way I could do what I wanted to do was to do it the way they wanted me to do it – the teachers, the coaches.”

Although still hesitate, Reedy realized he had to change his attitude.

“I had to follow directions. I never liked being told what to do but I had to. When I got to college, it was the same way. You’ve gotta wake up when they tell you. You’ve gotta go to class when they tell you; you know that’s the only way you’ll get to the NFL!”

All lights on!

Reedy’s passion to want to play for the NFL would be one of his saving graces. In the ninth grade and in the beginning of 10th grade he had a low GPA because he was mainly focused on football.

He then came to realize that he was the kind of person that wanted to be the best in everything, and having a low GPA – even though it was higher than the people he was hanging around with – was an embarrassment.

Suddenly a light came on and Reedy did some self-contemplation; he saw the reflection of the man he could truly be.

“Well, what are you going to school for if your GPA is low,” Reedy asked himself.

So in the second half of his 10th grade year, he told himself that he was going to get good grades, study hard and become professional. “That’s when I started following and listening to Murph, (Louis Murphy Jr.).”

Connecting the dots

Murphy became Reedy’s male role model that every African-American boy needs to teach him how to be a successful, responsible and moral young man.

“I used to watch Murph when I was younger. He had the number one jersey [at Lakewood],” Reedy said as he explained that when he attended the 1st Downs 4 Life™ camp, he was able to get one on one instruction. “Murph would say: ‘Reedy, you can do this, you can do that!’ And not only was he telling me about football, but we’d be out on the field and he would be telling me about my grades!”

Murphy helped Reedy learn how to think like a future professional on and off the field.

From Lakewood to Toledo and beyond

Reedy described his move from St. Petersburg to Toledo, Ohio, as “a humbling experience. I think I was the only one who didn’t have a parent to come help me move in my freshmen year. I didn’t know what my dad was doing at the time and my mom had to work.”

He was out of state hundreds of miles away from home and didn’t know anyone. “But you know I took it like a man, and I decided OK, I’m gonna make my own bed. I gotta get my stuff for the bathroom; get my bed sheets and stuff. You know it hurt! But it took me two weeks to finally realize like you’re on your own now! You’ve got to man up now,” he said.

Reedy has done exactly that and more. He has always welcomed a challenge and when the Toledo Rockets coaches asked who could do something if their premiere player were covered in the Military Bowl game against the Air Force, Reedy responded without hesitation, “I could do something!”

And do something he did. As a sophomore, he scored three touchdowns and won the Military Bowl game’s MVP Award in Washington, D.C. on December 28, 2011.

Reedy has come a long way since his conversations with Murphy at camp. Although he was not drafted, he has signed with the Atlanta Falcons and made a good impression at minicamp.

He is the epitome of everything 1st Downs 4 Life™ stands for!

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