The Southern Regional High School football team stepped into the national spotlight and earned its one minute of fame in a video for the NFL that was posted on the organization’s website in November.
The Rams will also be featured in short television spots during commercial breaks for NFL games.
The spot is part of the NFL’s “Play Smart. Play Safe.” initiative, which launched in September with a $100 million pledge to support medical research, engineering advancements and other ways to protect players.
Going along with this theme of improving safety, the video highlighted the Rams and the increased safety measures high school programs are taking to improve the sport for its young players.
Southern coach Chuck Donohue Sr., who has coached high school football for 47 years and was inducted into the New Jersey Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in June, was highlighted in the video for his experience adapting to new safety tactics over the years.
“The constant effort to make the game safer is what’s going to keep the game alive,” Donohue said. “If it doesn’t go in that direction, and people don’t feel confident there are constant changes being made, then it’s just not going to last over time.”
About 10 crew members from NFL Films in Mount Laurel went to Southern to film the players in the weight room and on the practice field in August.
“We just went along with practice as normal so it wasn’t intimidating that they were there because they were in the background. They were discrete about being there,” junior Carmen Deo said.
The crew filmed for one day at the high school as the Rams went through their typical practice routine.
“The one thing that was amazing was that there were times they would stand right next to us and you didn’t even feel them come up and leave,” Donohue said. “So you can tell they’re used to the sidelines.”
NFL Films reached out to Southern at the recommendation of a USA Football representative, who watched the coaches demonstrate the skills they learned from earning their Heads Up High School Coach Certification earlier that summer.
“It was really cool that we got to show everyone that we care about being safe,” senior Vin Miele said.
The football staff and the athletic trainer completed the four-part course to improve their ability in handling concussion recognition and response, heat preparedness and hydration, sudden cardiac arrest and proper equipment fitting and shoulder tackling and blocking techniques.
“I thought our kids did a great job and our coaches did a great job getting certified,” Southern Regional Supervisor of Athletics Chuck Donohue Jr. said.
Senior offensive player Mike Levine is seen 20 seconds into the video wearing his American Flag mouth guard before going in for a tackle. Levine said he is proud to be part of the video and part of a team that takes safety seriously.
“It really was a good experience seeing how well-renowned the program is for its safety and how it’s even drawn national attention,” Levine said. “Especially because of coach Donohue. He’s been doing it for so long, he keeps us all safe and healthy.”
Levine, Deo amd Miele are grateful for the opportunity to work with the NFL.
“It was a great experience, something I will probably remember for the rest of my life,” Deo said.
“When I get older, it will be something I get to tell my kids,” Miele said.