Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud, tight end Tony Gonzalez and quarterback Matt Ryan will each donate a $1,500 equipment grant to their high school alma maters' football programs through USA Football, the official youth football development partner of the Falcons and the NFL.
USA Football named DeCoud, Gonzalez and Ryan to its 2012 All-Fundamentals Team in January, honoring 26 NFL players who employ proper technique, particularly when blocking and tackling, which fosters inherent safety benefits and better on-field performance. As All-Fundamentals Team players, DeCoud, Gonzalez and Ryan each received an equipment grant valued at $1,500 from USA Football to donate to the youth or high school program of their choice. DeCoud will award his grant to Pinole (Calif.) Valley High School; Gonzalez will award his grant to Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School; and Ryan will award his grant to William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia.
DeCoud's exceptional footwork allows him to make a strong break on the ball and get to the receiver in order to break up the pass or make the interception.
"The Pinole Valley High School football program wants to thank Thomas DeCoud and USA Football for their generous donation," Pinole Valley High School head football coach Luke Bowdin said. "The opportunity to have brand new and top-of-the-line footballs is not only an advantage for our players, but it allows us to address other needs for the Pinole football program.
"We are fortunate to have distinguished alumni, such as Thomas, who inspire student-athletes to work hard to achieve their goals."
Gonzalez combines precise route running with solid catching fundamentals to provide an ideal target in the passing game. Even in heavy traffic near the goal line, Gonzalez consistently puts his body between the defender and the ball, all while remaining focused on the ball to watch it into his hands.
"In this tough economic climate, the equipment grant allows the Huntington Beach High School football program the opportunity to outfit our student-athletes in top-of-the-line shoulder pads," Huntington Beach High School head football coach Eric Lo said. "We are very grateful to Tony Gonzalez and USA Football as this equipment will be beneficial in protecting our football players."
Ryan's throwing mechanics are a textbook example for young quarterbacks. By standing tall in the pocket and keeping the ball high, Ryan keeps his shoulders level and in line with his hips to step toward his target. His ball control on play-action passes provides his receivers with an extra step to get open, while his field vision keeps the defenses guessing.
"Matt Ryan was a model three sport student-athlete at William Penn Charter School and continues to be an outstanding role model for all athletes," William Penn Charter School Director of Athletics and Planning John Theil said. "Ryan is a great supporter of our school, and the equipment grant of shoulder pads will have a big impact on our football program."
Employing core football fundamentals advances a youth player's performance and safety, particularly in the areas of blocking and tackling. USA Football has educated more than 100,000 youth football coaches in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., through its online courses and single-day coaching clinics. Approximately 3 million American children age 6-14 play organized tackle football, placing it among the country's most popular youth sports.