One of the Kansas University football program’s most visible philanthropists was at it again Wednesday in Lawrence.
Mike Rivera, a linebacker, who graduated from KU in 2009 and now plays for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, hosted an hour-long youth camp for the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence with a help from a handful of friends and former teammates.
Rivera, who recently gained national notoriety for conducting a crochet class at Hillcrest Elementary, helped 54 children, from first grade through sixth, learn the fundamentals of football while having a little fun at the same time.
With the help of a dozen volunteers, Rivera and company ran the young athletes through six different stations that taught the basics of seven different football positions. “We had a wide receiver station, quarterback, linebacker, D-Line. They basically got to learn the fundamentals of every position,” Rivera said.
At the end of the day, the campers were divided into relay teams — one student per grade on each squad — and asked to show off what they learne by battling in different skills competitions.
“It got pretty competitive at the end,” Rivera said. “Everybody had a lot of fun.”
That included Rivera and the 12 volunteers who participated.
“I definitely know it helped the kids,” Rivera said. “They were mentored by people who make it a priority to spend time with them and give back to the community. But we also got a lot out of it, too. It’s just a great feeling to get out there and work with kids.”
Rivera was joined by former Jayhawks Justin Springer, Angus Quigley, Marcus Henry, Jake Laptad, Alonso Rojas, Chris Harris and Raymond Brown. Springer’s twin brother, Jeremy, also helped out, as did former KU students Claire Penzler, Sami Faulk, Garen Stacey and KU associate athletic director Mike Harrity.
Because the players have been locked out by the NFL’s owners, Rivera has spent the past several months working out in Lawrence and spending time with friends and family. He said he was eager to see the lockout lifted but added that, as long as he had some free time he’d continue to find ways to give back to community. Rivera, who grew up in Shawnee, has a special place in his heart for northeast Kansas, but he already has made plans with the Boys and Girls Club of Miami to host similar camps in South Florida whenever he can get back down there.
“It may just be a small camp now,” Rivera said. “But hopefully it’s just the start of bigger and better things.”