The helmet disaster. The smells of cheap hot dogs. Blowing the official’s whistle. And now, for the first time, scenery and inflatable tunnel views from the NFL-Nike collaboration have spread across stadiums across the country.
High school football is back, and the NFL and Nike have partnered to host a kickoff event that will feature 20 teams as host schools, and two games will be played at Ronaldo Field at Nike’s world headquarters in Oregon.
Friday night’s boys soccer game between DeSoto High School (Texas) and St. Augustine High School (New Orleans, La.) and the girls soccer game between Alonso High and Robinson High in Tampa, Fla. at Nike Headquarters will host the event and be televised on the NFL Network.
“It’s a good opportunity to reach teenagers and communities,” said Roman Auben, the NFL’s vice president of football development and a former league offensive lineman.
“In the seven-plus years that I’ve been at this, I’ve never seen a better time for NFL teams to work together and work toward thematic and targeted alignment.” The work we’ve done with Nike has improved,” he said. “When you listen to people and find out what they really need, it’s not slapping on a logo… It’s something that everybody deals with; includes everyone.’
Although the games won’t be held in NFL stadiums, the teams are getting involved in other ways.
Several top Washington Commanders executives and players will attend Friday’s home game, including co-owner and co-CEO Tanya Snyder, president Jason Wright, head coach Ron Rivera, plus Carson Wentz and Terry McLaurin.
And the New York Giants hosted two youth teams — the Manville Junior Mustangs (N.J.) and the Mount Vernon Razorbacks United (N.Y.) — during a preseason game last Sunday. In addition to the experience on the field, each team has also received $10,000 in disaster grants over the past few months from the Giants and the NFL Foundation, a helping hand to overcome hurricane disaster and unfortunate vandalism.
The NFL and Nike are also emphasizing their outreach to girls football players with this event.
“The girls want to play,” Auben said. “It’s a movement that’s already happening. We just have to continue to be smart and diligent enough to continue to create those opportunities. These girls not only become fans and players of the game, but they become mothers who let their children play, they become coaches, and you see women officials and women in the sports business.
Overall, high school football continues to grow and improve as a sport. Advances in technology, training and football education led to a sport for Auben’s sons, now in college, that was an expanded version of what he played in high school.
“The high school, college and professional games are starting to become more consistent in terms of what is required of players,” he said. “You watch a football game 20 years ago and you watch one now … a high school game feels like you’re watching a Div. II college football game.
Nike and the NFL hope their efforts can help the sport continue to grow and encourage players to continue playing to the next levels of the game.
The start of the event is Friday night.
Participating NFL teams are:
Arizona Cardinals Chicago Bears Cleveland Browns Dallas Cowboys Denver Broncos Green Bay Packers Houston Texas Kansas City Chiefs Los Angeles Chargers Los Angeles Rams Miami Dolphins Minnesota Vikings New Orleans Saints New York Giants Oakland Raiders Pittsburgh Steelers San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks Tennessee Titans Washington Commanders