CLEVELAND, Ohio — The 2021 NFL Draft will have special guests help make picks every day of the draft, and two Northeast Ohio residents will be included.
Shaw High School senior Mya Tomoto will accompany Commissioner Roger Goodell for the Browns’ No. 26 overall pick in the first round. Lake Catholic High School football coach Marty Gibbons will help make one of the Browns picks on April 30, the second day of the draft.
The first round will highlight guests who have committed themselves to one of the Draft-A-Thon’s four areas: the digital divide, mental health, food insecurity and health disparities. The Draft-A-Thon works to raise awareness and help communities significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the CDC Foundation, the Education Trust, Feeding America and Mental Health America.
The draft’s second round will center on the NFL’s appreciation of the military, its partnership with St. Jude and its commitment to Inspire Change. On Day 3 of the draft, the league’s 2020 Fan of the Year nominees will announce a pick for their respective teams.
Here are the guests who will help make picks next week, according to a release.
Draft Day 1 (Draft-A-Thon Community Guests)
Pick 10, Dallas Cowboys – Kinikia Burdine (Mental Health): Kinikia Burdine is a U.S. army veteran from Dallas, who struggled with mental health issues, which worsened after returning from a tour in Iraq. Burdine turned her life around after attending Dallas County Veterans Treatment Court which is led by Judge Dominique Collins. She’s now a licensed social worker who works in hospice and provides mental health counseling for people struggling with depression and anxiety.
Pick 15, New England Patriots– Don Cox (Food Insecurity): Don Cox is a third generation U.S. Marine veteran who has started his own veteran and military support foundation in New England, USA4Vets. In response to the massive food insecurity issue made worse by the ongoing pandemic, Cox’s Food4Vets program has been delivering a 14-day supply of food to veterans that need it. Since the program began, more than 5.6 million meals have been assembled and distributed to those that need it in 10 different states. In addition to Cox’s program supporting veterans and military families, more than 100 food pantries and homeless shelters have received food donations.
Pick 20, Chicago Bears – Carlos Nelson (Health Disparities): Carlos Nelson leads the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC), serving the neighborhood where the first COVID-19 cases and deaths were in Chicago – his community also deals with tremendous health disparities, having no accessible health care facility in their neighborhood for years. Nelson worked to design and gather support for a community revitalization plan centered around creating a Healthy Lifestyle Hub to provide a home for a Federally Qualified Health Center. His vision came to life last summer when his plan was awarded the $10M inaugural Chicago Prize by the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. The Healthy Lifestyle Hub is now becoming a reality, with construction having begun in March of 2021 and doors scheduled to open early 2022. Nelson continues to fundraise to support GAGDC’s work around health equity and economic development.
Pick 26, Cleveland Browns – Mya Tomoto (The Digital Divide): Mya Tomato is a 12th grader at Shaw High School in Cleveland, where she is an athlete, plays the trumpet and will graduate in the top of her class. Shaw High School is part of East Cleveland City Schools, a partner district of the Cleveland Browns Foundation’s “Stay in the Game” educational initiative. Throughout the pandemic, Mya has done the work in her own community to help bridge the digital divide, leading a team of students who were responsible for the evaluation, preparation, and distribution of computers to students. She also worked with students on how to use them, many of which never owned or used a computer before. Additionally, Mya makes herself available to help others with virtual troubleshooting via video conference and phone calls whenever needed. Many of Mya’s classmates received these computers due to a $350,000 donation from the Browns, which was distributed amongst East Cleveland City Schools last season to address educational needs related to the digital divide as part of the NFL’s Inspire Change grant initiative.
Draft Day 2
Cincinnati Bengals – Means Cameron (Inspire Change): As representative of the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative – Cincinnati native Means Cameron will make the Bengals second round pick. Cameron is a graduate of a local Cincinnati program called MORTAR that helps minority entrepreneurs build a comprehensive business skillset and specifically helped Cameron propel his own company, BlaCk OWned Outerwear. The Bengals partnered with BlaCk OWned in 2020 to design a limited-series retail collection called “Stripes Don’t Come Easy” which donated proceeds back to MORTAR to support the next generation of aspiring urban entrepreneurs.
Indianapolis Colts – Von Rachell (St. Jude Children’s Hospital): As a part of the NFL’s PLAY 60 partnership with St. Jude, 8-year-old Von who is an Indianapolis native and Colts fan, will make the Colts second round Pick. Von became a patient of St. Jude in January 2019 after having a recurrence of anaplastic ependymoma, a brain cancer. At St. Jude, he had brain surgery to remove the tumor and proton therapy to successfully eradicate the cancer.
Atlanta Falcons – U.S. Service Members Stationed in Guam (United Service Organizations [USO]): The NFL’s Salute to Service initiative looks to honor, empower and connect service members and military families. For this year’s Draft, the NFL will highlight its partnership with the USO, a global military nonprofit that supports all service branches and helps to keep them connected to family, home and country. With the support of the NFL, the USO expanded its presence in Guam in 2020 with the addition of a new center – a 5,000+ square foot facility on Naval Base Guam. Service members will gather at the USO center at Andersen Air Force Base to introduce the Falcons’ second round draft pick.
Cleveland Browns – Marty Gibbons (Lake Catholic High School): Lake Catholic High School Football Head Coach Marty Gibbons was named the 2020 Cleveland Browns High School Coach of the Year, presented by Ohio CAT and in association with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and Raising Cane’s. In recognition of Gibbons’ commitment to excellence on and off the field, the Browns and the team’s High School Game of the Week partners provided a $9,000 grant ($6,000 to the annual winner, plus the $3,000 given to all finalists) to benefit Lake Catholic High School’s football program.
Draft Day 3
Philadelphia Eagles – Diamonique Valentine (American Cancer Society): Diamonique Valentine and her husband, Marcus, will make a special pick for the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2019, Valentine was connected to a free cancer screening program funded by the American Cancer Society and was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, at only 27-years-old. Now cancer free, Valentine celebrates surviving her battle with cancer with her husband, who was his wife’s caregiver throughout her fight against cancer.
Buffalo Bills – Cass Weiss (American Heart Association): American Heart Association representative and NFL PLAY 60 teacher, Cass Weiss, from North Olmsted, Ohio will make a pick for the Buffalo Bills in the Draft. Weiss has been a veteran physical education teacher with the Berea City School District for nearly 20 years.
San Francisco 49ers – Kaniece Williams (City Year): Through the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative, local City Year AmeriCorps representative, Kaniece Williams will make a pick for the San Francisco 49ers at the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland. Williams proudly serves as a City Year member at Harvey Rice Wraparound School in Cleveland, Ohio.
Houston Texans – Jordan Alexander and Laron Corpening (Character Playbook): Character Playbook students Jordan Alexander and Laron Corpening, from John F. Kennedy High School located in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will make a pick for the Houston Texans at the NFL Draft.
Carolina Panthers – Alexia Hammond (Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.): Through the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative, Alexis Hammond, will make a special Draft pick for the Carolina Panthers and represent the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. (CLEO), a diversity pipeline nonprofit. Hammond is a University of South Carolina alumna, and a 1st year law student at the University of Miami, who’s paving the way for more minority women to succeed in sports law and business.
Green Bay Packers – Gabby Smith (Fuel Up to Play 60): Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Gabby Smith from Ohio will make a pick for the Green Bay Packers and represent the Fuel Up to Play 60 program – the leading in-school youth health and wellness program that’s part of the League’s NFL PLAY 60 initiative.
New York Jets – Jessica Felix (New York Jets and Nike New Jersey High School Girls Flag Football League): Jessica Felix from East Orange Campus, a player in the New York Jets and Nike New Jersey High School Girls Flag Football League, which recently started its inaugural season, will make a virtual pick and to represent Jets.
Minnesota Vikings – Bobby Reidl (Special Olympics): Special Olympics Athlete and Coach, Bobby Reidl, from Cleveland, Ohio will make a pick for the Minnesota Vikings on behalf of Special Olympics Ohio to honor the NFL and Special Olympics partnership through the NFL PLAY 60 initiative, which provides athletes with intellectual disabilities and athletes without intellectual disabilities to play on the same team through Unified Flag Football.
Pittsburgh Steelers – The Schmidt Family (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors [TAPS]): TAPS Family of fallen hero, United States Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Schmidt, will make a Draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Schmidt family is from West Leechburg, PA and is part of TAPS – which offers care to those grieving the loss of a military loved one. We are honored to have a special family join us virtually today.
Dallas Cowboys – Michael Gebhardt (USO): USO regional board member and veteran, Michael Gebhardt, will make a pick for the Dallas Cowboys on behalf of the USO. Gebhardt served in the United States Navy for 10 years as both an operational and instructor pilot. As a service member he experienced the programs and services of the military nonprofit firsthand and now he is helping the USO to grow and expand its reach to more service members, veterans, and military families.
Denver Broncos – Barry Pettit (Wounded Warrior Project® [WWP]): Wounded warrior Barry Pettit from Brook Park, Ohio will represent WWP making a pick for the Denver Broncos in this year’s Draft. Pettit was a combat engineer who served 13 years in the United States Army. Pettit was injured in Iraq. After being medically discharged, he joined WWP in 2014 and now volunteers to serve fellow warriors as a Warrior Leader.