Running back William Powell runs through a drill Tuesday during the dedication ceremony of a new field.
Soon after a drill led by Alfonso Smith and William Powell turned into a massive game of two-hand touch football, a girl latched onto Smith's leg and brought the Cardinals' running back down.
Smith landed on the brand-new acrylic grass football field at Kings Ridge Preparatory Academy in Phoenix that was dedicated in a ceremony Tuesday. Also on hand were students, teachers, Cardinals cheerleaders, Nicole Bidwill, offensive lineman Steven Baker, and local government and school district officials.
"I'm jealous. It's almost better than our field at the Cardinals' stadium," Smith said with a laugh. "It's a blessing for them and I'm happy for them."
Ground broke on the new field in November 2011 and when it was recently completed, Kings Ridge Principal Rochelle Elliott said students "ran, they were skipping, hopping, sliding on the field, laying on it, feeling it with their hands. They were in total awe. They can't wait to participate in sports on this field."
The Riverside Elementary School District No. 2 received a $200,000 grant from the Cardinals and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation for the field, which was part of the NFL's Grassroots Program.
"This is incredible," Bidwill said. "It's awesome to see that this has finally come to fruition. It's something that's been in the works for a long time. It's really important for us to be able to give something back to the community like this. This is a gem and I think this will impact a lot of lives.
"We're so lucky to be part of this business and to be able to give something like this back to the community and to these beautiful little kids. It's wonderful and it's heartwarming."
The ceremony featured 13 speakers, including Superintendent Dr. Jaime Rivera, district athletic coordinator Cloyce Lamb, student council president Kyonnah Reddick and NJHS student president Ivan Alcazar. Of the 360 students at Kings Ridge, 120 of them participate in sports or a leadership activity, Elliott said.
After the ceremony, about 80 students participated in a "camp" that included running and passing drills and passing games.
For a couple of hours on their day off, Powell, Smith and Baker were one of the kids.
"It means a lot because I like to see the kids happy," said Baker, who tossed a football to kids as they dove on a large foam mat. "I never really had the opportunity to do anything like this. I didn't grow up in an NFL city. It's fun. It's always fun. The kids enjoy it. It's something to do on my day off other than sit around the house and play video games."
The trio said they can relate to the kids at Kings Ridge. When they were younger, Powell, Smith and Baker looked up to NFL players much like the kids were looking up to them.
And the messages throughout the morning centered around working hard in and out of school to help achieve any dreams the students might have. The three Cardinals were living proof of that.
"We have a day off but you always want to come out and support the community and give back, not only material things but your time," Powell said. "It means a lot to the kids when you know people come back, grown-ups come back and support them because they look up to you.
"I can remember when I was in their position. I would enjoy when even college players or anybody would come back and spend their time because you really admire them. You can just look on their faces and see. All of them have smiles on their faces."