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Hundreds of kids turn out for Super Bowl champ’s football camp at Yokosuka

Detroit Lions LeGarrette Blount puts on a football camp for military children at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Saturday, April 28, 2018.

CAITLIN DOORNBOS/STARS AND STRIPES

By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 28, 2018

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Just months after donning his third Super Bowl ring, running back LeGarrette Blount traveled to Japan to teach some of his championship-winning skills to about 200 children from Yokosuka, Camp Zama and Yokota Air Base.

Blount — who won Super Bowl LII in February with the Philadelphia Eagles but now plays for the Detroit Lions — said the two-day, USO-hosted football camp aimed to provide an opportunity that usually isn’t available to the first- through eighth-graders.

“[Overseas children] are not as exposed to this as most kids, especially kids in the States,” he said. “Military kids are extra special. They can’t just wake up in the morning and be like, ‘Oh snap, football is on. Dad, can we go to a game?’ They have to get up at 3 or 8 in the morning just to watch a game.”

The camp started Saturday morning at Yokosuka’s Sullivans Elementary School field. Blount and volunteer coaches helped the children learn and practice exercises that focused on passing, catching and footwork. The clinics wrapped up with short games, free pizza and special interactions with Blount.

The children had individual photos taken with the Florida native and received his autograph. Some asked him questions — from “What’s your favorite cereal?” to “Which was your hardest game?” — during special question-and-answer sessions.

Blount said it’s important to let kids see that NFL players are people, too.

“Just being able to come out here and let them see firsthand that we’re actual people — we’re not superheroes,” he said. “We like to do a lot of the same things they do. We’re normal.”

Navy spouse Jobelle Tionquiao said she and her husband brought their son, Ben, to encourage him to play sports like he did back home.

“I want to expose him to different sports,” she said. “Before, in Chicago, they promoted it more. It’s important [for children] to interact with other kids and learn the sport. And to meet a professional football player, that’s a plus.”

Tabitha Higgins — another Yokosuka-based Navy spouse — said she and her husband watched Blount play for their favorite team back home.

“LeGarrett Blount used to play for the Patriots, and we’re Pats fans,” she said of the team Blount earned his first two Super Bowl rings with in 2015 and 2017.

They homeschool their son, Christopher, and hoped the event would help the 10-year-old make friends his age.

Blount said it’s important that children participate in active, outdoor events.

“Aside from the fact that it’s healthy, this is how you make friends,” he said. “This is how you make connections; this is how you develop relationships with people.”

Blount — who also spent time at Yokosuka signing autographs at the commissary and visiting various commands, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan — said it was especially touching to be at the home of the Navy’s 7th Fleet after separate collisions involving two Yokosuka-based destroyers killed 17 sailors last year.

“I know that there were some things that happened here recently — losing some lives,” he said. “I just wanted to come here, boost morale and do everything I can to see people just smile.”

doornbos.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos

A child practices catching during a football camp at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Saturday, April 28, 2018.
CAITLIN DOORNBOS/STARS AND STRIPES

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