Inside the walls of cavernous Yankee Stadium, laughter mixed with instruction echoed all around as the Rutgers football team held a clinic on Dec. 27, 2013, for local youth football players as part of the community events leading up to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
"It's a blessing to be in the position that we're in and give back to kids who look up to us or don't have the same opportunities we have," said Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova. "We put smiles on their faces, but it probably does more for us than anything." "This [youth clinic] is one of the events that surrounds a bowl game that makes it more than just a football game," said Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. "It's really an experience and hopefully something that improves the community also."
In addition to the clinic, Rutgers and Notre Dame representatives got a chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial, ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and a few Fighting Irish players spread holiday cheer to patients at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Pediatric Cancer Center.
On Dec. 26, 2012, a handful of West Virginia players visited the pediatric wing at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
Nine Mountaineers, including quarterback Geno Smith and defensive lineman Ivory Drewery, visited with more than 20 children, playing board games, completing arts and crafts projects, and competing in some hotly contested Wii Sports battles.
"It's great to hang out with some really neat kids, interact with them and just give back," said Smith. "It's humbling to get to know these kids and their families. Just being able to make them smile just makes my day a lot better. It's a wonderful feeling."
As the morning wound down, the children asked Smith for his autograph, and he obliged, signing WVU hats and T-shirts distributed to the group. Then the senior turned the tables, taking off his New Era Pinstripe Bowl beanie and coyly asking the kids for their signatures.
"I was talking to one parent about [our demanding schedule], but that really means nothing compared to the lives of these kids," Smith said. "They all deserve a chance to smile. That means so much."
On Dec. 4, 2012, Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School pulled out a nail-biting win over Staten Island's Tottenville High School to capture the New York Public Schools Athletic League championship, 15-14, at Yankee Stadium.
Hosting the PSAL title game for the third straight year, Yankee Stadium was transformed into a football paradise with cheerleaders and fans taking in all the action from the stands and the sidelines.
"I couldn't be more thankful; it's just great to be back at Yankee Stadium," said Erasmus Hall coach Danny Landberg, whose Dutchmen lost in the PSAL title game in 2011.
Tottenville led early, but Erasmus Hall stormed back from a 14-7 deficit behind quarterback Jonathan Samerson, who rushed in for a score from 3 yards out to cut the deficit to 14-13 late in the third quarter. Landberg called for a two-point conversion, which junior running back Curtis Samuel - who shed two would-be tacklers - converted to give the Dutchmen a 15-14 lead they would hold on to.
The Dutchmen's first-ever PSAL title was the result of a defense that held the Pirates in check after Tottenville got two early touchdowns from running back Andre Darnt and quarterback Brandon Barnes.
"The PSAL championship is a great opportunity for us to showcase kids who are not only performing well on the field, but are also doing well in the classroom," said Brian Smith, Yankees senior vice president of corporate and community relations. "We're always excited to host this event and work with the PSAL every year."
Amid team photos, Yankee Stadium walk-throughs and New Era Pinstripe Bowl preparations, members of the Syracuse University football team carved out some time that, hopefully, will have an impact long after the game's final touchdown.
On Dec. 28, 2012, SU welcomed nearly 100 youth from the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club for a coach's clinic and chalk talk at the Stadium.
The young participants split up into positional groups, some kicking field goals in the direction of home plate and others lining up against offensive and defensive linemen, seeing if they could cut it against the Orange.
"Playing sports is a privilege and an honor - our players will tell you that," said Syracuse coach Doug Marrone during a motivational pep talk to his team and the Kips Bay members at around the 30-yard line, what would usually be center field. "We may fall a little bit, we may have a little adversity, but as a team we help each other and support each other to stay on track."
Marrone, a Bronx native coaching in his second New Era Pinstripe Bowl in three years, also delivered a message of valuing education, even for his Syracuse team.
"We are developing the education and life skills to be successful after football," Marrone said. "Our goal is to graduate so wherever we go we feel we belong."
On Dec. 29, 2011, the day before the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, members of the Iowa State football team spent the morning visiting patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
"Out of all of the things we were doing this trip, I was looking forward to this one the most," said redshirt junior quarterback Brett Bueker. "It's always nice to give back to the community. Coming out here and seeing the smiles on the kids' faces, that's the best part."
The players signed autographs, participated in arts and crafts projects, tossed around a football and played games like Connect Four and checkers with outpatients before stopping by a handful of patients' rooms for private visits.
"I don't know if they are more excited or we are," said sophomore linebacker Jeremiah George. "I think they're pretty excited. They've got a lot of smiles on their faces, so that's nice. A guy beat me in a game of Connect Four about four times, so I've taken my share of beatings today, but I'm just glad to be here. It's been a lot of fun to give back."
Players and coaches from the New Era Pinstripe Bowl's Big East institution take part in a coaching clinic for Bronx youths at Yankee Stadium every year leading up to the game. The head coach and his players take a break from game preparation to connect with the next generation of hopeful student athletes. The clinic emphasizes what it takes to be elite in the classroom as well as on the playing field. Below is an account of the 2011 Yankee Stadium Coach's Clinic.