In 2007, the National Football League launched NFL Play 60, a health and fitness campaign aimed at encouraging young fans to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
The Indianapolis Colts helped reinforce that message over the years and earlier this month, they took it north of the border.
“NFL Canada contacted us, they wanted to bring Play 60 into the schools in Canada. So, we were the first NFL team,” said Colts cheerleader Hannah I. “We were the first ones to go up there.”
They arrived in Quebec on June 9th and spent most of their time at a school outside of Montreal.
“We brought the whole show,” said Leanna E. “We had two alumni players with us, Roosevelt Potts and Bill Brooks, plus five cheerleaders and Blue. We were definitely ColtStrong.”
They assisted with a flag football tournament that had 17 schools competing and great participation from all the students.
“One of the neatest things for me was seeing as many female participants in flag football up there as there were male participants,” said Brooks, former Colts wide receiver and Ring of Honor inductee. “I think that was neat to see everyone participate, getting out and being active and having fun together.”
“There were even some all girl teams. You could definitely feel the girl power. It was pretty cool,” Leanna said.
They also ran Play 60 drills, Blue did his school show, and the cheerleaders held a Junior Cheer clinic, which was also well attended by girls and boys.
The Colts Cheerleaders were a big hit in Canada.
“They don’t have cheerleaders in Canada, so we felt even more like celebrities than in Hong Kong,” said Hannah.
“When we went to Hong Kong, we were told that people are going to treat you like rock stars. They think that you’re like Elvis or Beyoncé,” Leanna said. “But nobody said anything about the Canadians. I feel like they loved us more.”
“We felt like the Beatles,” said Mariah H. “Some places we get a lot of feedback, but this place is I think the most feedback we’ve ever got. We would get crowds of little kids and they would pass us papers and pens. It was very fun.”
Also along for the trip was Dr. Jen Welter, the first female coach in the NFL.
“She shared her story with a couple of the groups that we were with and who she was and what she’s been through to get where she is,” said Leanna. “Once I heard her story, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Girls can do anything!’ It was really inspiring and empowering.”
The group also made a visit to Montreal Children’s Hospital, where they spread some joy to the patients and their families.
“Just getting a chance to go in and kind of put our horseshoe superhero cape on and sign a simple poster and talk to them,” said Mariah. “Just finding a way to connect with them, to get their mind off of their situation.”
It was a quick trip. The Colts spread the Play 60 message, gained some new fans, and left Canada wanting more.
“I hope they continue, because I think it’s a neat program,” Brooks said. “I think the kids were very receptive to it. I think everyone up there is very receptive.”
The Colts left their mark on the Canadians.
And, as Leanna said, “I think they left just as big of an impression on us.”