High school senior wins RISE essay contest, tickets to Super BowlFebruary 1, 2018
Brooklyn Center student got to select coach to attend game with him
By Ian Cutler
MINNEAPOLIS – The only professional football game Charles Wylie has attended is a preseason NFL game.
Now, the senior wide receiver at Brooklyn Center High School in Minnesota is going to the Super Bowl.
Wylie, 17, was awarded two tickets to the game Sunday, Feb. 4, for him and a coach of his choosing through an essay contest sponsored by the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). He also was given an invitation to attend the third annual RISE Super Bowl Town Hall, “The Next Play: Best Practices for Using Sports to Improve Race Relations,” a forum Friday, Feb. 2, where NFL players and executives will discuss lessons learned from the activist athlete this season with a focus on what’s coming next.
A wide receiver and defensive back, Wylie decided to bring his position coach, Daryl Savage, to both events. Wylie and Savage will attend the game and town hall with Nick Kellum, an officer with the St. Paul Police Department who was nominated and awarded a ticket through a separate RISE promotion. And as a surprise the three of them may be finding out by reading this story, they will get to attend the game with Pro Football Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams.
The Miami Dolphins provided RISE with the four tickets to the Super Bowl. The purpose of both the essay contest and promotion was to show how sports can bring people of different backgrounds and perspectives together to improve race relations and promote understanding, respect and equality.
“I’m just going to keep my eyes open and be willing to meet people and learn, and I want to experience the next level of football and see how those guys operate,” Wylie said of both events. “Professional athletes, all eyes are on them, most of the things they do can impact a lot of people. I want to see how they carry themselves and how they act as role models. I’m keeping an open mind and just want to learn and see what I can get from the experience. It’s a once-in-a-life time opportunity, so I’m excited.”
Wylie and his football teammates at Brooklyn Center completed the RISE Leadership Program during the fall 2017 season and had the opportunity apply for the tickets by writing short essays about their experience with the program and the power of sports to create social progress.
This was Savage’s first season as a coach for Brooklyn Center’s football team, but Wylie noticed his commitment even before the season began.
“Coach Savage adjusted to us really fast and opened up to us,” Wylie said. “For me as a student-athlete, I’ve been around so many coaches that came and left every year, but Coach Savage made the time to come out in the summer this year to teach us new techniques and we vibed quickly … he’s someone I can relate to. He played ball like us. He’s always calling us and checking up on us and we just connected.”
Wylie, who also runs track and does mixed martial arts fighting on the side, earned a scholarship to Southwest Minnesota State University to play football and credits Savage for it.
“He’s the reason I got into school,” Wylie said. “At first, the recruiting process was tough, but he sent my film to the coaches at SMSU and talked me up and soon after they offered me a scholarship … His main goal is to make sure we get to college, no matter what level of football, he just wanted to make sure he sent a guy off to college.”
Savage, who originally is from Miami, played college football at Upper Iowa University. He earned a master’s degree there in public administration with an emphasis on justice and homeland security. He’s worked in treatment centers for adolescents struggling with addiction and depression and works full time as a probation officer for U.S. Probation and Pre-Trial Services.
Coaching football is a passion, one that is fueled by coaching kids like Wylie, that was rewarded when Wylie chose him to attend the Super Bowl events.
“It means a lot that he chose me,” Savage said. “When you take the time to get to know someone and push them at the same time, but still show that you care, that makes a difference … There’s no words to describe what it is to see that I had an impact on somebody’s life; it’s a great feeling.”
Thousands of student-athletes across the country have participated in RISE’s leadership program at the high school and collegiate levels. The season-long curriculum teaches students and coaches how they can use their roles as athletes to champion equality, stand up to discrimination and harassment, and improve race relations. It’s designed to empower students, coaches and administrators to be leaders in addressing matters of racism, prejudice, diversity and inclusivity within their teams, schools and communities. Program participants learn about the power of sports to drive change and how they can become leaders in improving race relations.
Wylie noticed how his team benefited from the RISE program.
“The RISE program brought our team together and helped us bond,” he said. “Our team went from 3-5 to 5-3, and the RISE program played a role in that. And the impact on me, I know RISE gave me more empathy, allowed me to look at things from other people’s perspective. I know it’s more than that but that was important for me.”
Savage said completing the RISE leadership program will enhance Wylie’s Super Bowl experience, given his own background in law enforcement and the time they’ll spend with Kellum.
“The RISE program helps you understand how other people view the world within your community and understand why they think the way they do. It can be implemented anywhere,” Savage said.
“And for Charles, [going to the Super bowl with Kellum] gives him a different perspective and allows him to see that law enforcement officers are there for people. It gives you the chance to really get to know the individual behind the uniform. Hopefully he asks some questions, and they can talk about what they can do to improve the community. We can talk about ideas and share perspectives and just enjoy the game together.”
Ian Cutler is director of media relations for RISE.