MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Miami Central Senior High School’s football team had a ball Sunday.
The players were invited to tailgate with the pros.
“It doesn’t matter race, it doesn’t matter color, it doesn’t matter male or female, young or old,” one of them said during the team pep talk. “We are one community, right?”
The tailgate party was part of the Miami Dolphins’ RISE program, established last season to address discrimination.
“I think RISE is really to bring people together at all levels,” said Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross. “Knowing that together, white or black, that’s how you win. That’s what sports is about.”
The billionaire owner hopes sports can lead the way by example. Central High Head Coach Roland Smith knows it makes a difference.
“Anytime you get to do something like what RISE is doing for the kids and the coaches in our community, it’s always great,” said Smith. “We tip our hats to the Dolphins and players for doing what they are doing.”
The school is not only grateful for the program but for the help they got a month ago.
The team traveled to Las Vegas for a game. They won. But when they tried to fly back home, Hurricane Irma got in the way and flights were canceled.
A three-day trip turned into nine.
“As a team we just bonded more,” said the Rockets’ Robert Hicks. “And that made us closer and that we had each others’ back.”
Folks in Vegas stepped up to help with food and outings. Miami Dolphins players chipped in to help, too.
“We got a chance to bond being together for the extra week,” said Coach Smith. “And I just want thank the Miami Dolphins who chipped in, paid the hotels, extended stay and all that kind of stuff.”
“It just shows you how they have come together and the respect they have caring about things,” Ross added. “I think it’s really unusual and I really applaud the players for what they’ve done.”
Among the highlights of their extra week included practicing in the hotel parking lot.
“Have you ever practiced in a parking lot like that,” asked CBS4’s David Sutta.
“Nah, we never did that before,” Hicks smiled.
It’s been quite a month for the Rockets, one that Coach Smith is calling unforgettable.
“It was quite an experience,” said Coach Smith. “It’ll be an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Coach Smith said the asphalt practice helped keep them sharp. The school is 5-1 this year.
The RISE tailgate started with a town hall meeting last year about racial inequality.