With OTA's going on right now and minicamps around the corner, NFL players don't get a lot of time to hang out with their buddies. Or play a casual game of flag football, either.
But that's what several Alabama alums and their NFL friends and teammates did Friday night at the Harper's Hope 41 First Annual Celebrity Flag Football Game, which was put on by former Alabama star and current New Orleans Saints safety, Roman Harper.
Regular admission cost $15, but if fans wanted to meet the players and get autographs afterward, they paid $40. All proceeds went to Give Tuscaloosa, which helps tornado victims.
"We're here for Tuscaloosa and the tornado relief," Harper said. "I brought a lot of my friends, and I can't believe a lot of them showed up, but we're here for a good time and a good cause."
Harper created Harper's Hope 41 Foundation about three years ago with the following mission statement:
"Harper's Hope 41 Foundation is to strengthen families and enhance their emotional, social and spiritual health through educational programs, enrichment activities and economic development."
He's also started a reading program for kids and hosts a celebrity golf tournament in the summer.
"Hopefully we keep it all going and get it bigger and bigger," he said.
The game, which took place at Central High School in Tuscaloosa, wasn't too crowded, but Harper hopes to make it more of a well-known annual event.
There was Team Black, which included players like Harper, Anthony Madison (Steelers), Tyrone Prothro, Charlie Peprah (who coached Team Black while wearing his 2011 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl ring) and Darren Sharper (Saints), and Team Red, which included players like Marcell Dareus (Bills), Brodie Croyle (formerly with the Cardinals), Marquis Maze (Steelers) and Quinn Porter (Rams).
"I dedicated part of my life to the city of Tuscaloosa and any chance I can get to give back, I'm more than willing to do so," Dareus said. "Roman called me and told me they were coming to do this and I said no problem. I dropped everything and it didn't even matter. It means a lot to me, to all of us."
Though Team Black was up most of the game, Team Red came back in the final seconds with a two-point conversion to win 44-43. As the team's quarterback, Croyle accepted the trophy.
On a cool 80-degree night, it was fun to see these players completely in their element—playing football and laughing with their friends while listening, and sometimes dancing, to rap music.
The song selection was impeccable, too, as a lot of the players, especially Dareus, would show off their dance moves to "Wobble" and "Sexy and I Know It."
"It's like we're just big kids out here," Dareus said. "No script, just out here running around for a good cause. You can't beat it."
Before the game started, everyone took a moment to pray for the victims of the tornado and remember that's what brought them to this flag football game in the first place.
Then after the game, all the players sat at tables and signed autographs, took pictures and talked to fans.
Harper said he comes back to Tuscaloosa as much as he can and hopes to have more events in the city.
Dareus said that it's times like these he thinks about hosting is own event.
"I got some things lined up for Tuscaloosa," he said. "I want to try and raise as much money as I can to try and turn some things around, and you can quote me on that. I'm going to do something for Tuscaloosa. Me and my friends are going to do something for Tuscaloosa. I can't tell you just yet, it's going to be a surprise, but we got something lined up."
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