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WP:Redskins Leadership Council-Q&A


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Questions and Answers With . . .

Sunday, November 23, 2003; Page C04

Last week, about 700 high school football players from Maryland, Virginia and the District gathered at FedEx Field in Landover to participate in the fourth annual "4th and Life" program, sponsored by the Washington Redskins Leadership Council. Alex Hahn, director of the Leadership Council, spoke with staff writer Hamil R. Harris about the event.


QCan you explain what happens during the 4th and Life program?

AWe invite current and former [Redskins] players to lead a forum with the high school athletes in hopes that they will be successful beyond the football field. Whether these athletes go on to play in the NFL or in college, or they enter the workplace, they can learn a lot from professionals about what is important in life. This year, forum speakers included linebacker LaVar Arrington, cornerback Fred Smoot, wide receiver Darnerien McCants, defensive back Todd Franz and quarterback Gibran Hamdan, who is part of the Redskins practice squad. In addition, we had former players like all-pro Charles Mann and Gary Clark, both who have had successful careers after playing with the Redskins.

How has this program been effective in changing lives? Can you give examples of young people who participated and later said they clearly benefited from the experience?

Every year, we receive correspondences from high school coaches who tell us about how meaningful the forum was for their players who have since gone on to play football on the collegiate level -- or a person like Terry Dixon, a former West Virginia player who has returned to his alma mater, Anacostia High School, to coach and to teach.

From your experience with 4th and Life, what are the greatest challenges that high school football players face today? For example, is it the temptation of drugs or the fast life? Or the sense that they put too much focus on making it as pro athletes without realizing how slim the odds really are?

One of the greatest challenges facing high school football players is being able to balance their academics with their rigorous football schedule so that they can be successful at both. Making it to the NFL is a great dream to have, but the reality is that very few athletes will make it to that level. That's why it's so important for these athletes to realize that what they have learned on the football field can help them in many other facets of their lives off the field as well.

What other community programs are the Redskins players, coaches and owner Daniel Snyder involved in?

We have a community service initiative called the Redskin All Stars. Over the past three years, we have had 60,000 youths participate in community service projects across the area. We have awarded more than $300,000 in grants to local community groups to improve their neighborhoods. We have built playgrounds, renovated community centers, planted gardens, beautified schools and cleaned up countless neighborhoods.

Do you get involved in helping students in terms of their academics?

We have placed academic coaches at two District of Columbia high schools to help student-athletes focus on academics. We also have a Redskins reading program, which distributes 50,000 activity books to local libraries, and Redskin players read to the children on a regular basis to promote literacy.

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