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In what has become a memorable annual event for everybody involved, members of the Miami Dolphins rookie class hosted more than 60 Florida Special Olympics athletes Tuesday for a little flag football action at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University.
“We are thrilled to return to the Dolphins Training Facility for our annual clinic with the rookie class,” Special Olympics Florida Area Director Linsey Smith said. “It is one of the highlights of the year for our athletes to have the opportunity to train on the same field as their idols. We are grateful to the Miami Dolphins for providing this memorable experience each year.”
In addition to getting the Special Olympics athletes the chance to interact with Dolphins players, the event also is used to promote physical fitness in the South Florida community.
“It is our favorite event all year,” said Erin Kozlowski, Senior Regional Vice President for Resource Development with Special Olympics Florida. “This is our fourth year. I feel like it’s the first every time I come in here. It feels amazing. This facility is really incomparable. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else.
“It’s really incredible. The Dolphins are the official sponsor of flag football for Special Olympics in Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Palm Beach County, and I really don’t know what we would do without their support. They’re really leaders in the community and they step up and they take care of everybody who is part of a vulnerable population. Our athletes have intellectual disabilities, which includes Down Syndrome, the entire autism spectrum, cerebral palsy, Fragile X Syndrome, any type of an intellectual or a developmental disability and the Miami Dolphins really make sure that they are stepping up and that they are taking care of people who need help.”
Dolphins rookies who participated in the event were Chase Allen, Isaac Asiata, Winston Chapman, Isaiah Ford, Davon Godchaux, Matt Haack, first-round pick Charles Harris, Larry Hope, Malcolm Lewis, Cameron Malveaux, Praise Martin-Oguike, Raekwon McMillan, Torry McTyer, Drew Morgan, Joby Saint Fleur, De’Veon Smith, Eric Smith, Maurice Smith, Damore’ea Stringfellow, Cordrea Tankersley and Vincent Taylor.
The rookies played and refereed flag football games with the Special Olympic Florida athletes, grades 6-12. It was their first community event as members of the organization.
“To me, it’s all about giving back,” said Taylor, a defensive tackle from Oklahoma State University. “I worked with Special Olympics in my hometown of San Antonio. For me to do it in Miami, it’s a fun event. For me to help Special Olympics Florida, it’s a good time to be able to give back to the community.”
The event ended with handshakes and high-fives, and smiles all around.
“It’s really amazing,” Kozlowski said. “Since we’ve been doing this for a few years, our athletes really look forward to it. They start calling our office in January asking if they’re going to be selected to attend. We have to really limit it. We make sure that we’re choosing the athletes who during our flag football season one of the first-place finishers and qualified to advance to our state games in Orlando. We try to be picky and choose the best players, but everybody loves it. The athletes that we do get to come out here, once they leave, they actually think that they are Miami Dolphins players. They think they’ve been drafted.”
“My favorite part was everything,” Special Olympics athlete Max Mogul said. “What I liked the most was to come out here with the Dolphins and we feel so special to play with the players. It’s very touching and very nice.”