The Los Angeles Rams have recently begun their annual Cleats for Character program; this year, they will donate 1,400 pairs of cleats. The Rams visited David Starr Jordan High School and held an assembly to kick off their effort this year.
The Jordan students and their football team heard from legendary Rams tight end Brandon Manumaluena, Rams community affairs and engagement manager Johnathan Franklin and the Rams cheerleaders. They spoke about their life experiences, explaining to the students the importance of focusing on your goals and sacrifices that come with it.
“[Manumaluena], he went to the highest level he could go,” said Jordan sophomore running back Cyrus Finnie. “Given the wisdom gives me more confidence in myself.”
Franklin facilitated the panel; as he got the panelist involved in the conversation, he gave the students advice and shared his background in the NFL. He noted how important it is to galvanize the community even during the offseason.
“We spoke about education, we didn’t necessarily talk about [Manumaluena’s] statistics on the field,” Franklin said. “To have the addition of the Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders as well to speak about their journey through sports, I’m extremely grateful.”
They also urged the students to embrace their individuality and to persevere through challenges. While the football team got cleats, all the students who attended the assembly were given mini speakers.
“I really thank them for sponsoring the school and giving us kicks,” said sophomore Jordan football player Cornell Partridge. “Not everyone can afford them … I appreciate it.”
The members of the Rams organization touched on several topics including social media, overcoming injury, prioritizing academics, and focusing on goals.
“I think the cleats are nice, but I think the inspiring message and their personal experience in what they went through to overcome adversity and how they came out on top is the best part,” said Jordan high principal Lucia Cerda.
The cheerleaders talked about their several occupations they do along with their obligations to the Rams. Manumaluena talked about how he became a coach at his alma mater Narbonne and how he spends more time with his children after he retired. His main message to the students is not to get complacent.
“I had to learn that when I was on the Rams,” Manumaluena said. “I got trades on the Chargers and it was kind of out of left field. Sometimes you have these self-evaluations by yourself and I just [thought] maybe I got too comfortable.”
Derek Benton became the head coach of the Jordan Bulldogs football team last June and had five weeks to prepare the team for the season. The team excelled, becoming Metro League champions and reaching round two of the division III playoffs. Benton noted how this season was a blessed year for the team.
“You see the excitement, they’re trying to take [the cleats] now,” Benton joked. “I loved that the Rams chose us.”
The assembly left the students motivated and inspired. Sophomore corner Joshua Gonzales was grateful to hear about the backgrounds of the panelists.
“It was an honor to have a good organization come out and come to a low-income school and help out,” Gonzales said.
Football players like Melvin Jacinco learned that trying to impress friends and certain crowds can hold you back from your personal dreams.
“What I really think that really touched me was the fact that what people you really need to think about having in your life and continue with personal beliefs,” Jacinco said.