Frederick Douglass High School’s football program can boast of more than just an unblemished record- eight wins and no losses– so far this season. They are getting a little help on life skills from professional football players.

Baltimore has been selected as the pilot for “First and Goal,” the National Football League Player Engagement (NFLPE) organization’s maiden effort at equipping high school football players with the kind of knowledge that will complement on-field skills with the tools to succeed outside the white lines of a football field.

Since September, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings before class and on Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the 85 Douglass varsity and junior varsity players attend an enrichment program.

According to an NFLPE statement, the National Football League entity that focuses on player development, is introducing the students to “financial literacy, character development, conflict resolution, mentoring, communications and health, safety and wellness.”

The goal of getting athletes ready to be students and citizens at a higher level is applauded by Douglass principal Antonio Hurt as a way of getting them ready to be more than ballplayers.
“Throughout the past two years my students have believed I am not too fond of sports,” he said. “But, I am fond of the kids who hit the field everyday and the fact that they should work to be great student athletes, first. So as we celebrate our athletic program we celebrate student athletes and the academic approach we must take to engage our students.”

The initiative is a partnership between Mayor Stephanie Blake-Rawling’s office, the Family League and the NFLPE.

The pilot program is a mentorship coordinated by academic coach Michele Harper, NFLPE Director Harry Swayne, and former Baltimore Raven David Tyree.

“This program is all about encouraging the personal and professional goals of football players and give them tools for life,” said Tyree.

“We are trying to develop the total student athlete,” Harper said. “Also we are trying to get them aware of what is offered at the college level, and make them understand that they need to get a college degree.”

Frederick Douglass’s reputation as a college prep public school made it an easy choice for the pilot program. Douglass students earn college credits from the time they enroll, college attendance is not an alien thought.

“Sports programs are an ideal way for young people to learn the skills they will need throughout their lives,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “Thanks to the NFL, the Family League and Douglass High School, this program will help our young athletes to take the lessons learned on the field and apply them to life.”