Written by Seacrest Studios Program Manager, Mamie Shepherd
When an estimated 600,000 people descended upon downtown Nashville for news about the NFL Draft, there was a small corner of Music City where little people gathered for news too. Seacrest Studios at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt became the setting for some of the biggest names in sports to meet some of the smallest forces in life. They talked about football, the draft, injuries, and being overcomers.
The most-watched, highest-rated, and most attended draft in NFL history brought Good Morning America anchor, and new friend to Seacrest Studios, Robin Roberts, to the studio on Wednesday. Professional football player, Marcus Mariota, joined us later that day, and the most powerful man in sports, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, visited with us on Thursday - Day 1/Round 1 of the draft. In the 100th season of the NFL, this had to have been the most exciting draft of all time, and Seacrest Studios was a part of it all!
Robin Roberts "kicked" things off on Wednesday when she came to the studio to talk about her own health journey through breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). She inspired everyone with her Mess-To-Message philosophy, encouraging children of all ages to take their own situations in life and make the best of them.
Known for being one of the "Most Trusted People In Television," Robin answered patient questions like how often she washes her jeans, if she sings in the shower, if she would tell someone they have something stuck in their teeth, and who she would trade places with if she could. We couldn't stump her in a game of Touchdown or Fumble, but we did manage to share some important moments with her, one-on-one, for pictures and hugs.
We all felt inspired and loved after having spent time with Robin and we'll be watching her on tv to remind us all to stay strong!
Our second sports visitor of the day was quarterback, and Heisman Trophy-winner, Marcus Mariota. Marcus scored a touchdown in Seacrest Studios when he came to meet, and even play catch with, patients!
This Hawaiian-born quarterback celebrated his first NFL achievement back in 2015 when he was selected in the first round of the draft. Like a lot of our patients, Marcus has broken bones, suffered sprains, and torn muscles so he can relate to what many are going through when they see doctors.
Marcus' message of perseverance was inspiring, and his prowess in modeling football calls like Touchdown, Hail Mary, End Zone Victory Dance, and the Heisman Trophy Pose gave everyone a big smile! He left us with an "Encouraging Thought of the Day" that reminded patients that there is "no winning without hard work."
Wednesday was quite a day for us!
After the Child Life Assistants held football craft sessions - "Draft Crafts" - in the studio, we topped off Draft Week with a visit from NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. Revered by many as "The Most Powerful Man In Sports," Goodell has joined forces with Vanderbilt's own neurosurgeon, and the NFL's FIRST-EVER Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, to make player safety a priority.
In getting to know more about Commissioner Goodell, we found out that, like our own Seacrest Studios interns, he himself started his career in the NFL as an intern! Goodell worked his way up to COO and eventually Commissioner of the NFL. It is an inspiring story for college interns to remember.
In Nashville to kick off the NFL Draft and personally announce picks, Roger Goodell also felt a responsibility to proclaim his "protect the shield" initiative that works to protect the safety of players involved in sports. To that end, he has partnered with Dr. Allen Sills, a decorated and renowned neurosurgeon who founded the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center serving athletes worldwide, to elevate the safety and health standards in sports to its highest level. According to Commissioner Goodell and Dr. Sills, there is no higher priority for them.
To Goodell's credit, he has worked hard to monitor neurotrauma in athletes and manage guidelines that would protect players.
As for his part, Dr. Sills is highly regarded in the field of neurosurgery and in the medical care of athletes. After an intensive international search, he was selected to head up the first-ever position as Chief Medical Officer for the NFL. Dr. Sills brought in Commissioner Goodell and two former pro-football players, Chad Pennington and Troy Vincent, for a roundtable discussion about football safety for college, high school, youth league coaches, and athletic directors. Their message to the athletes gathered in Seacrest Studios was, “When you get hurt, tell someone!” This vision for sports health and safety reaches beyond the pro level all the way to youth participation. To this end, a powerhouse in sports, and a powerhouse in medicine, are changing the way we will all move forward in competitive athletics.
To be sure, we weren't going to let this sports-minded, accomplished group leave the studio without a little friendly competition - with a medical twist! Each man was handed something very familiar to patients at the hospital - the purple glove! Given just one minute to blow up the glove and tie it off for the win, the men at the table took off at "On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!" Patients cheered everyone on but, in the end, the man with the muscle turned out to be our very own, Dr. Sills!
It was a win-win week of inspiration, motivation, and fun that Seacrest Studios won't soon forget.
To the players whose dreams came true during Draft Week, and to the patients whose dreams were surpassed - we say Go Team, and Good Luck from Seacrest Studios!