The chants echoed throughout practice, as students encouraged their fellow classmates yelling “Let’s go Tilden, Let’s go Tilden”.
This wasn’t any ordinary day for the Tilden High School football team. Today was different, the mood was different, the spirit was different and the practice was different. When you haven’t won a single game this season, you don’t expect spirits to be at an unusual high.
That wasn’t the case on this Thursday afternoon. The team is 0-8 this season in just it’s second year back with a football program, after it was cancelled in 2010.
They don’t have a home field causing them to play all road games, they practice at a park, and did I mention they only have a 16 man roster?
Yes, a 16 man roster which is completely unheard of in Illinois unless you live in the backwoods and you drive a tractor to school.
So why was this team who has struggled all season long so excited this Thursday?
Well, woudn’t you be excited if Chicago Bears players Matt Forte, Earl Bennett and Kellen Davis showed up to your practice?
That’s right, all three helped with practice on Thursday afternoon, and the spirit wasn’t of a 0-8 team. It was like the team was rejuvenated and on their way to the playoffs.
“It’s great to come out and see these guys. They come out to work, everyday they come to practice hard and they only have 16 kids. It’s something that’s not normal, you don’t see this everyday,” said Forte. “They deserve a couple of pro athletes, from the Bears, to come out and talk to them.”
Forte teamed up with Duracell to present the school with over $20,000 worth of items. The football team wasn’t the only ones receivng items from Forte and Duracell. The school itself received donations from the program. Items ranged from calculators for students to new football equipment for the team.
Forte also spent the day at the school talking to students, helping them make spirit signs and toured the school.
“Its important just not to focus on football with these guys, they have to know that there is life outside of football. Even if you make it to the NFL, there’s always life after football.” said Forte.
The day started off with a special pep rally encouraging students to support the schools football team. But the students were completely surprised when Forte walked through the door.
The mood instantly shifted.
The gym became full of “oh’s and ah’s”, as the Chicago Bear running back took the floor in front of the students and led a pep rally that was just the beginning to this special day.
After school the team practiced at the local park just a few blocks away from the school. Students flocked to watch the practice and encourage their classmates. The giveaways from Duracell were also an added bonus, as they handed out autographed footballs to lucky students during practice.
As the team made their way into their pre-practice huddle, Forte, Bennet and Davis all huddled with them as Forte started of practice with an opening statement. “Are you guys ready? Let’s go out and have a good practice,” said Forte.
During practice, Forte helped out with the running backs. He lead them through drills, gave them advice, and even helped touch up on their blocking skills. Bennett showed the wide receivers the correct routes to run, as he demonstrated a quick out, slant and an out route to the focused receivers.
Davis worked with the offensive line, working on chip blocking and overall blocking drills.
Throughout the entire practice, the teams fellow classmates cheered, and didn’t stop until practice was over. With nearly 50 students watching the practice, the environment was something different to this team. For this day, they found out what it was like to have an actual crowd watch them.
The day was a success. Not only for the school or the team, but for the Bears players as well. On their bye week they did something on their day off to help students in need.
“When I was in High School, we had a locker room, a big practice field, equipment. We had nice facilities, but these guys defiantly deserved it,” said Forte.
Below are pictures from the event.