Local football players get life
lessons from the pros
By Jared Dort
Sedona Red Rock News
Sportsmanship, camaraderie, hard work and a big heart. That is the message that the Arizona Cardinals’ Ronald McKinnon brought to local football players Monday afternoon.
McKinnon, the keynote speaker and a linebacker in the NFL for seven seasons, was in town as part of a community outreach program called the Cards Caravan Tour.
“The caravan tour is a great opportunity for out staff and players to visit the many Cardinals’ fans across the state,” Chris Melvin, the Cardinals’ public relations assistant, said.
The caravan stopped at L’Auberge de Sedona Resort and was hosted by KAZM, a radio station that is a Cardinals’ affiliate. Attendees were treated to a free lunch, prizes and a short, address by McKinnon, assistant offensive line coach Mike Devlin and Luis Zendejas, the director of community relations.
McKinnon’s message hit home, especially with local youths from Sedona, Mingus and Camp Verde. Being from a small town in Alabama, McKinnon knew first-hand what it takes to be a pro football player and to be successful. He attended the University of North Alabama, a Division II school, where his team won three connective D-II titles.
But what McKinnon stressed was not about making a professional team, but rather building character and camaraderie through sports.
“The game of football is like life; you are always striving to do better,” he said. “Sports build good character. They teach about life and the tools you need to succeed.”
He also stressed that in order to succeed, one needs to have a big heart and be self motivated. After graduating from high school, most Division I schools said he was too small and would never make it. Three national titles and seven years of pro football later, he has proved them wrong.
Jim Cromartie, head football coach
at Sedona Red Rock High school, and a handful of players were in attendance to hear what McKinnon had to say.
“It was very worthwhile and meaningful for the kids to hear it from someone besides a coach,” Cromarite said. “Hearing stories from players like McKinnon are things that can really reach them.”
McKinnon also talked about the importance of playing youth football.
“Youth football has played a big part in my career. It helped me prepare for high school. You need to start young to get the skills to play in the future,” he said.
As of this week Sedona is still struggling to revitalize its youth program, which was somewhat abandoned in 2002. The high school team would benefit immensely from the program if it got back off the ground.
Participants got a special treat when Zendejas shared the importance of a college education. Zendejas, who graduated from Arizona State University
and was a kicker in the NFL for five seasons, used his talent to go to college and get a degree.
“Education was the most important to me; the rest (being in the NFL) was gravy,” Zendejas said.
Sedona was the third of five stops for the caravan, which will continue its tour in Lake Havasu and conclude in Las Vegas.
The Cardinals will kick off their training camp in Flagstaff July 26 and will open with a pre-season game against the Cowboys August 9.