With only two weeks before NFL players will report to training camp, most are probably spending time with their families, playing golf, or relaxing by a beach side pool. However, two NFL players decided to spend their last remaining days of their summer break on the St. Rita high school campus this week to help teach kids the game of football.
St. Rita graduates Mike Kafka (’05) and Ryan Donahue (’06) threw themselves directly into the mix of 75 grade school boys on Monday morning in an effort to teach the young men about their experiences in the NFL but also the experiences they had while at St. Rita. Both Kafka and Donahue found great success on the field and in the classroom and that was one of the messages they wanted to get across.
“Make sure you guys are working hard not only on the football field, but also in the classroom,” Mike Kafka spoke to the kids before the camp started. “Coming from a University like Northwestern, it’s really important to excel in school and get your grades in line first and foremost. Other things will come but take care of stuff in the classroom first.” Kafka, a two sport athlete at St. Rita (he also played baseball) and team captain for both sports knows the importance of school and found great success at both St. Rita and Northwestern. Kafka was also not too shabby on the football field being named to the All-Area and All-State team as a senior and then 4 years later was named to the All-Big Ten team at Northwestern. In 2010 Kafka was a 4th round selection by the Philadelphia Eagles and is currently the backup quarterback to Michael Vick.
Kafka’s partner at the camp and high school teammate for two years, Ryan Donahue, is currently the punter for the Detroit Lions. Donahue had a different path to the NFL than Kafka but saw much of the same successes his former teammate did. After Donahue’s senior year he was honored by being invited to play in the US Army All-American football game, a distinction that is only given to a select number of players from around the entire country. Donahue would then go on to play football at the University of Iowa where he was an All-Big Ten Selection and a finalist for the Ray Guy award which is given to the nation’s top punter. In 2011 Donahue signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions and is currently the back up to Jason Hanson.
With all the success that Donahue has had, he has never forgotten his roots. “When it comes to St. Rita, this is a school rich in tradition and pride,” Donahue stated to a group of young kids. “Playing football for St. Rita was great and something I will never forget. Football is fun, you are supposed to have fun while you play, but remember it’s not just football, it’s everything else like school, family, and friends.”
The two St. Rita alums and current NFL players spent the day teaching the kids about football and life. They took time out to sign autographs and play catch with the kids. All in all, the kids had a great time, the players had a great time, and Mike Kafka and Ryan Donahue showed that pride and tradition is not something that leaves when you graduate but something that will continue on throughout a lifetime.