Monday, December 18, 2017
Sports

Global ambassadors for American football

A spirited brainstorming session over noodles.

That's how Breno Giacomini and Gary Barnidge — a couple of ambitious NFL players intent on making a difference beyond the field — and their buddy Ahmed Awadallah came up with their mission to take American football all over the world.

"We kind of just sat down at P.F. Chang's and started talking about what was going to be our next thing to help out the community," Giacomini recalled of that dinner in Kentucky in 2011. "We didn't know sitting at that table that it was going to get this big. Not even close."

The impassioned idea developed into American Football Without Barriers, a nonprofit that educates disadvantaged children in the United States and overseas about the sport.

Next stop: Egypt.

Giacomini, an offensive lineman for the Jets, and Barnidge, a tight end for the Browns, are taking the field in the Middle East this week for AFWB's latest international trip after holding camps in China, Brazil and Turkey the previous three years.

"We want to build from the ground up," Barnidge said. "We want people playing the sport and enjoying it like we do."

Giacomini and Barnidge will be joined at German University in Cairo from today through Saturday by 10 other NFL players, including the recently retired Marshawn Lynch, Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, Texans offensive lineman Oday Aboushi and Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron.

In conjunction with the Egyptian Federation of American Football, AFWB will have free camps for players ages 14-25, as well as a coaching clinic led by Giacomini.

"The love of the game is definitely spreading throughout the world," Giacomini said, "and we're trying to be contributors to that wherever we go."

Barnidge and Giacomini were teammates at the University of Louisville, and Awadallah, an engineer at Yums Brand, was their classmate. All three enjoyed community work while in school and decided to take it to the next level when they established themselves in their careers.

Barnidge was the Browns' winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award this season for his work.

"Gary and I will be doing this for a very long time," said Giacomini, 30. "This is part of Plan B after football."

AFWB receives proposals every year from American football federations around the world to have the camp held in their country. Camps are also held in Malden, Mass., where Giacomini was raised, and Middleburg, Fla., where Barnidge is from, and one is being added in Kentucky.

The plan hatched from that initial dinner meeting was to head to Egypt, where Awadallah was born and raised. He had a friend conducting football drills there, but the political turmoil in that country in 2013 steered the group to China instead.

"There's a lot more football in the world than people think," said Giacomini. "In China ... they're up to maybe 15 padded teams. In Brazil, they started on the beach and they're up to like 45 padded teams now. Same thing with Istanbul."

One of AFWB's goals is to get a player on a U.S football scholarship.

"We almost had one kid from China get a D-III (opportunity), but he chose to go to Stanford instead for academics," Giacomini said. "That's like, 'Okay, you win.' "

But there's a humanitarian aspect, too, with visits to orphanages and hospitals while players learn about the cultures they're experiencing.

"All the players are like, 'Man, I just want to keep doing more stuff like this,' " Giacomini said. "If we change one kid's life, we did our job."

Comments
Jets turn tables on Blues at home

Jets turn tables on Blues at home

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Connor Hellebuyck was happy to have a hand in helping the Jets get some payback. Less that 24 hours after Winnipeg was shut out in St. Louis, Hellebuyck made 24 saves as the Jets returned the favor with a 4-0 victory over the Blu...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballHouston Baptist at Michigan State6 p.m.Big TenNorthern Arizona at USF7 p.m.820-AMNebraska-Omaha at Kansas7 p.m.ESPN2Charleston Southern at FSU7 p.m.ESPNU; 1010-AMNorthern Illinois at Marquette7 p.m.FS1Purdue-Fort Wayne at India...
Updated: 6 hours ago

PITTSBURGH — The Patriots have built a dynasty on second chances. Miss an opportunity to bury the Super Bowl champions and they will find a way to find a way, usually behind a mix of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski and defensive playmaking at just the r...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya, bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frie...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

TAMPA — It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Jon Gruden a night all his own, given the nights he gave Bucs fans. But it will happen this evening at Raymond James Stadium, a salute to the thermonuclear source of that Super Bowl season, that ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Last-minute run rallies UNC past Vols

Last-minute run rallies UNC past Vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — North Carolina passed the kind of road challenge it wanted to face before starting Atlantic Coast Conference competition. Kenny Williams sank a go-ahead 3-pointer with 35 seconds left as the seventh-ranked Tar Heels rallied past No...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning has goalie Peter Budaj’s back after near-collapse

Lightning has goalie Peter Budaj’s back after near-collapse

LAS VEGAS — After the Avalanche made a seemingly insurmountable Lightning lead shaky Saturday night, defenseman Victor Hedman was the first to skate toward backup goalie Peter Budaj and give an encouraging pat on the pads with his stick.Budaj’s stat ...
Updated: 8 hours ago

NFL playoff chase

Playoff chaseNFCPos. Team Rec Div ConfDivision leaders1. Eagles-E-* 12-2 5-0 10-12. Vikings-N-z 11-3 3-1 8-23. Rams-W 10-4 4-1 7-44. Saints-S 10-4 3-1 7-3Wild card5. Panthers 10-4 2-2 6-46. Falcons 8-5 2-1 7-2Contention7. Lions 8-6 4-1 7-48. Seahawks...
Updated: 8 hours ago
David Lee: From ending ugly streaks to title to love match

David Lee: From ending ugly streaks to title to love match

David Lee has not played a home game at Madison Square Garden for nearly eight years, but the memories don’t soon fade once a player has inhaled the rarefied air of life as a Knicks fan favorite. Lee knows this better than most.One stubborn example: ...
Updated: 8 hours ago