Port Sulphur, La. --Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli is leading a new wave of professional athlete whose mission after success on the playing field is to preserve the earth for future generations.
The term "Eco-Athlete" is a new one, but one that is already second nature to Mughelli.
On July 13 Mughelli joined nine other professional athletes, including retired Tampa Bay Bucs fullback Mike Alstott, former New York Rangers and Team USA goaltender Mike Richter, and ARCA Series race car drive Leilani Munter, in a tour of the Gulf Coast to see firsthand the damage to the region by the recent BP oil spill.
The athletes hope to share their experiences in an effort to continue to highlight the connection between sports, health, and a clean environment, causes dear to every athlete on the tour.
For Mughelli, the Gulf Coast disaster illustrates the point that a transition to clean energy could prevent disasters like this in the future.
"Seeing this disaster should serve as the billboard for discovering new forms of renewable energy," Mughelli said in a conference call with the media on Tuesday afternoon.
The trip to the Gulf Coast is another endeavor in Mughelli's long list of accomplishments as an eco-athlete.
He joined former Vice President Al Gore in his Atlanta seminar "Solutions to the Climate Crisis" in November; he spoke on communities being green at Tybee Island, Georgia in May; and was recently named No. 2 in a list of the Top Five Eco-Athletes (a list that also featured Munter at No. 1).
The Ovie Mughelli Foundation, whose motto is "Our Future is Green", conducts football clinics in Atlanta and Mughelli's hometown of Charleston, SC where an education on environmental concern is meshed with football how-tos.
Mughelli believes using football as a backdrop for eco-concerns is the perfect opportunity to capture an audience that may otherwise ignore the need to be environmentally friendly.
"Inner-city kids aren't worried about the environment," Mughelli told Avital Binshtock of *Sierra *magazine. "They're more concerned with violence, drugs, or getting something to eat that night. They think going green is unattainable and expensive, so I tell them there are ways that actually save money, like using less water and turning off lights. I teach that they can start with practical lifestyle changes."
Mughelli embraces his role in teaching youth about the environment and his trip to the Gulf Coast only served as a reminder that he and his peers still have a lot to work to do, adding that for him personally putting his foundation's motto into action begins inside his own home.
"If we're supposed to be the responsible adults, obviously we're not doing our job right now," he said on Tuesday. "I wish there was more that I can do personally, but what I can do is raise awareness to move toward renewable energy. We should do right by our kids. I have a 16-month-old daughter and she's a constant reminder of that."