It was a routine pass for Missouri tight end Josh Barbo, but for Wesley Leftwich it was the biggest reception of his career.
Leftwich, 10, was one of about 70 Columbia children who attended the Mike Jones Youth Activity Day on Saturday on the MU campus.
The events, which the Mike Jones Foundation and the Columbia Youth Scholarship Fund sponsored, started at Stankowski Field but moved inside to Devine Pavilion because of rain.
The move didn’t discourage Leftwich. He came out to compete in the punt, pass and kick contest and to play catch with his favorite Tigers.
“It’s better this year because we got to play in the rain,” Leftwich said. “I’ve never gotten to play outside basketball or football in the rain before.”
The rain lowered participation. Event organizer Doug Whitworth said he had anticipated about 200 local children. The children participated in free football and baseball clinics with players from MU and the Mid-Missouri Mavericks.
Former Tigers taught kids football basics
Missouri linebacker Lorenzo Williams and defensive linemen C.J. Mosley and Atiyyah Ellison taught kids how to tackle. Jake Whitesides, a standout with the Mavericks last season and at Hickman, taught kids how to hit and throw a baseball.
Jones, a former Missouri and St. Louis Rams linebacker, directed the clinics. Jones is best remembered for making the game-saving tackle for the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.
“I want the kids to learn the basics about football and baseball,” Jones said. “A lot of times they’re watching (professional) guys on Sundays, and they’ve been playing 20 years so they can get away with things that kids can’t get away with. We want to teach them the basics and hope it makes them better players and better sports.”
Jones said the small turnout didn’t mean the day was a failure.
“What makes it a success isn’t the numbers,” Jones said. “It’s about showing these kids something that makes them better. When you see a kid finally get something, it’s like a light goes on inside of them, literally.”
Clinics raised money for Youth Scholarship Fund
The youth clinics were part of a daylong charity effort aimed at raising money and awareness for Columbia’s Youth Scholarship Fund. Jones hosted a charity basketball game later in the day at Columbia College. This was the eighth year Jones has held the game.
“I remember when we started, some of these players that come out and help me were still in high school,” Jones said. “Now they’re graduating and looking to keep playing in the NFL or the NBA.”
Some of the children at Saturday’s clinic dream of careers in professional sports, but David Johnson, president of Columbia’s Youth Scholarship Fund, said the real goal was to have a good time and touch the lives of Columbia’s children.
“First, we hope everyone has fun,” Johnson said. “After that, we just want the kids to know that there is somebody out there who cares about them. We want to make sure they get every opportunity to grow and learn.”