Monument Pop Warner squad reacts to award from Peyton Manning - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Monument Pop Warner squad reacts to award from Peyton Manning

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The Monument Blizzard are on Cloud 9.  The Pop Warner football team from the Tri-Lakes is one of ten nationwide recipients of a $10,000 grant from helmet-maker Riddell.  The announcement of the prize was made by future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

"It was an honor that he took the time out to make the video and address us personally," said Dan Hembree, president of the Monument Blizzard Association.  Two months ago, Hembree submitted an essay to apply for Riddell's Smarter Football Program.  Some 700 other football programs across the country also applied.  "I knew it was a long shot.  Lots of people from youth all the way up to high school apply for it," Hembree said.

Applicants were required to demonstrate their commitment to safe football techniques and coaches are required to be Heads-Up certified by USA Football.  "We remind them how to tackle, we remind them how to engage another player, whether it's offense, defense, tackling, blocking," Hembree said.  "We talk with parents.  We have long conversations with parents that are worried about safety."

Fears about concussions and other injuries have led to a decline in participation in youth and high school football nationwide.  Riddell's Smarter Football Program aims to address that.  "It not only reinforced Riddell's message about safety and everything, but to have athletes that are backing it and supporting it, then to have a personal message come along with that -- it was pretty fantastic," Hembree said.

The $10,000 grant will cover the purchase cost of state-of-the-art helmet and padding technology and will help make it available to families who otherwise might not be able to afford it.  Equipment costs can cost families upwards of $500.  "A lot of kids will come and they'll have just any helmet they can find.  One of the things that we can do with this money is buy quality gear and make sure that quality gear is available to everyone," Hembree said.

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