Football star urges local kids play it safe during the pandemic

— Photo from Chipermc

“That will definitely be different ...,” said Dion Lewis of playing football in an empty stadium. “I’ve been playing in front of fans since I was about 10.” But, he went on, “If we think that’s best for everyone to stay safe, then that’s what we’ve got to do  … I’m all for it.”

ALBANY COUNTY — Dion Lewis, running back for the New York Giants, is making a pitch for Albany County kids to play it safe during the pandemic.

Lewis, who grew up in Albany and as a kid played for the Police Athletic League, has joined with PAL and AT&T to launch a program this week to keep teens from spreading the coronavirus.

Young people often have mild symptoms of COVID-19 or no symptoms at all and can unwittingly spread the disease.

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy has frequently commented on how the 20-to-29 age group, as county data shows, are the second largest age group in the county to test positive for the disease.

His own son, who is in that age group, suggested going to Lake George with some friends, he said. McCoy’s response: “The hell you are.”

“They have a different mindset,” said McCoy. At that age, “You think you’re invincible and they’re not showing signs and symptoms.”

The campaign launched this week — #AlbanyCountyStaySafe — is for a younger group, ages 13 to 18. Those teens have a weekly challenge to submit a video or photo on Instagram, showing how they are staying safe.

This week’s challenge is “Move It!” in which teens need to show how they are staying fit while maintaining social-distancing protocols.

McCoy called Lewis’s participation in the project “crucial.”

“You need someone for the kids to look up to ...,” said McCoy, “to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can change your life if you want to … if you want to work hard for something.”

“I hope everybody’s taking this seriously,” Lewis said during a video call at Tuesday’s county press briefing. “These are very serious times and you can’t do things like you want to do.”

Lewis, who is 29, acknowledged that kids want to go with friends to malls or parks or movies and “it’s tough” to stay home and be by yourself, he said.

Lewis said one option is to “watch the media, play video games, and eat candy all day.” He acknowledged that he himself had an unstructured life in the midst of the shutdown but team Zoom meetings got him back on track.

“I started getting up early, eating breakfast ...,” he said. “You have to make it normal. You can’t treat it like it’s Saturday or Sunday every day.”

Lewis went on, “I’m in pretty good shape … It’s my job to make sure I’m ready to go whenever things are lifted. I have a responsibility to my family and my fans.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that sports in New York may begin again without fans in the stadiums.

“That will definitely be different ...,” said Lewis. “I’ve been playing in front of fans since I was about 10.” But, he went on, “If we think that’s best for everyone to stay safe, then that’s what we’ve got to do  … I’m all for it.”

Since gyms are closed now, Lewis said he has gone back to doing what he did when he was younger to exercise — “a lot of running, a lot of push-ups and sit-ups.”

Even between video games, Lewis said, he’ll do “fifty push-ups real quick just to stay active.” He conceded, “It’s tough not being in the weight room, trying to keep my weight up.” Lewis is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 195 pounds, according to team stats.

Doing other things to stay in shape, he said, “keeps my mind right as well.”

Kristen Duffy, director of external affairs for AT&T said that having Lewis as the face of this campaign “will make the initiative more engaging and meaningful.”

Thomas Brockley from the Albany Police Athletic League called Lewis “a PAL kid.”

Brockley explained that the theme of the challenge will be named each week at the county’s Monday morning press briefing, and teens have until midnight on Saturday to submit their entries on the week’s theme.

Twenty entries will be randomly selected each week for a prize of a $20 gift card from a local business. Each person can enter just once each week.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the photos, the poems, any Tik Tok clips while challenging your family, friends, and neighbors to socially distance, safely, and exercise,” said Brockley.

He concluded, “Stay healthy and stay strong — let’s move it!”

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