Rolling Out

Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation hosts community youth draft in Detroit

Young people applauded for their work

During the 2024 record-breaking NFL Draft weekend in Detroit, the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation hosted its inaugural Junior Academy Draft Breakfast on April 26.

The highlight of the breakfast was saluting a dozen students from the metro Detroit area who are doing outstanding work in the community. Each of the students who were in attendance was announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and came on stage to take a picture with him one by one, similar to the NFL Draft.

Goodell has consistently attended Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation events, showing his public support for the organization created to increase diversity within the NFL. Fritz Pollard was the first Black head coach in the NFL and one of the first two Black players in the league. This past season, there were a league-record five Black team presidents.

After the junior draft academy breakfast, Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation President Rod Graves spoke to rolling out.

What are some more details about this junior draft academy program?

This is actually the first year, our inaugural kickoff for the Fritz Pollard Alliance Academy.

We’re excited about it. This is all about the youth and getting them exposed. We couldn’t do it without the Detroit Lions and the great job and support they have shown for the program. Input from business leaders here is tremendously important for us going forward, so we hope to expose the youth to job opportunities and various things they can do in terms of career opportunities.

We’re excited about it and looking forward to doing this in every draft city.

What else do these students get to do now, other than visit NFL offices in the summer?

We also hope the kids have some important takeaways in terms of perseverance and leadership skills—all the other attributes necessary to be successful, not only in business but in life, as well. Hopefully, those things are felt and realized throughout the program.

There’s a lot to be learned here, but the exposure is hopefully something they can’t get anyplace else.

So we’re looking forward to that opportunity.

What were some of the requirements when you picked recipients? Essays and grades?

Obviously, we’re looking at exceptional students — people who have excelled on the football field, and people of high character people who have demonstrated a concern for their fellow students and those around them. [We want] people who have excelled both on the field and off the field, and those are the kind of people that epitomized what Fritz Pollard was all about.

One of the recipients performed CPR on somebody. What was your reaction when learning about that situation?

Just the mere fact that he was alert, and felt confident enough to perform such a procedure and save a life. It’s an experience he will never forget. I’m sure that the beneficiary of his reaction will certainly never forget it.

Again, this is indicative of the character that we spoke about just a moment ago. The people who are willing to take leadership roles and execute when it’s time to. Those are the kind of participants we’re looking for in a program like this.

We commend him. We commend his parents that obviously gave him the foundation to be who he is and what he is.

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