When big stars and celebrities talk, people listen. Fortunately for Slidell kids, Slidell native and Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte is both those things. Last week, Forte returned to his old stomping grounds where he held a football camp at the Slidell Youth Football Association’s fields in Slidell to emphasize the importance of getting a good education regardless how good an athlete you become.
Forte, a graduate of Slidell High School, played running back for the Tulane Green Wave in college where he graduated with a degree in finance. In 2008, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears and in his debut game, he carried the ball 23 times for 123 yards setting a franchise record for most yards gained in a debut. “I’ve played on all three of these fields growing up. It’s really great to be back, but the fields look smaller to me now,” said Forte, now 6-2 and a very muscular 218-pounds.
The camp was open to the first 300 registrants and was free to the kids. “It was an easy idea to come back where I played and mentor the kids. I just want them to know that life is about getting an education and working hard at whatever you do,” Forte said. The NFL star ran drills with the kids, talked with them about staying in school and making good grades and joked around with the campers and coaches who were also there. Football coaching staffs from Slidell High, Salmen High and Northshore High were all on hand to help teach the kids technique and run drills. Forte also spent time with this wife Danielle, who wore a “Mrs. Forte” shirt and took pictures of her husband running drills.
Forte contacted the SYFA in January to set up putting on the camp.
“We think it’s beautiful what he’s doing. The city is going to get involved. The kids are excited. We know Matt played out here, and it’s wonderful he’s coming back to give back,”?John Griffin, one of the SYFA leaders, said. “And he’s doing this for free. We’re fired up.” Forte has partnered with the City of Slidell and the Slidell Youth Football Association to give young athletes a solid foundation of the game and maximize each player’s natural ability. He was also scheduled to hold a camp at Tulane, but it was cancelled because of the rain.
Forte said he is thankful for the coaching he received growing up, which helped him get where he is today. “The SYFA and Slidell coaches helped me a lot. They instilled hard work in me and taught me what was important,” Forte said. “My dad was a big part of it too.” Gene Forte, Matt’s dad, played football at Tulane from 1975-77 and was a team captain in 1977.
Matt said he’s glad that the SYFA is still up and running after all this time. “It’s a great organization. It’s done a lot of good things for the kids in Slidell, and it’s important to have around,” Forte said. The Slidell graduate’s number one goal was to emphasis that Slidell kids get a good education first before focusing on sports.
“When you’re working hard, you have to set goals. From middle school to high school to college, you have to set goals and make the grades. When that happens, you can go after any dream. For kids who want to play in the NFL, you have to stay hungry. You can’t have one good game and think that’s good enough. You’ve got to keep working,” Forte said.
In 2011 for the Bears, Forte rushed for 997 yards, had three touchdowns and fumbled only once.
(Article originally appeared in the Slidell Independent. Used with permission.)