Remembering His Youth


Marco Rivera coaches youth players in Cieba, Puerto Rico.

You look at Marco Rivera and the 6-4, 310-pound frame that has helped him play six NFL seasons, and it's easy to forget that the Packers offensive guard was ever little.

But Rivera hasn't forgotten his childhood. He can still remember when the NFL was but a dream. And it was in the spirit of those dreams that Rivera conducted his fourth youth mini-camp in his mother's native country of Puerto Rico last month.

"Every year I come back saying, 'Wow, can it get better than this year?'" Rivera said. "But this year was by far the best camp we've had so far."

The same event that produced 265 youngsters in 2001, registered 419 participants ages 10-16 this year.

More than about teaching the finer points of football, Rivera's camps look to stress the importance of an education, hard work, and discipline.

"It makes me feel good," Rivera said. "As players, we all remember what it was like when we were kids growing up and dreaming of playing in the NFL. By coaching these kids and giving them a chance to interact with pro players, it's our way to give something back."

While in Puerto Rico, Rivera also took part in the NFL's "Play With A Pro" contest, lending his football expertise to 12-year-old James Helton and the other 14 members of Helton's youth football team.

Helton, the son of a deployed U.S. service member in Cieba, Puerto Rico, wrote a prize-winning essay explaining why his 'Backyard Team' played with the true spirit of the game.

Rivera coached the youngsters on various football strategies and talked with them about the importance of teamwork, community involvement and having fun while playing football.

For pictures of the "Play With A Pro" event, click here.

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