Will Shields weighed 315 pounds (and sometimes more) during an All-Pro career with the Chiefs, which landed him in the team’s Ring of Honor and the NFL Hall of Fame.
These days, he’s much more svelte and conscious of his weight.
“As you get older, your body starts to break down,” he said with a laugh Wednesday, Nov. 8, during a press conference at his athletic training facility, 68’s Inside Sports in Overland Park.
It may seem funny to hear a former professional athlete, one of the best interior offensive linemen in NFL history, talk about nutrition and fitness as if it’s a revelation, but for Shields it’s something he has come to take far more serious later in life.
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Now, Shields hopes to convince a younger generation about the value and necessity of living healthy early in life through a new foundation, Will To Do It.
The nonprofit’s humble beginnings were a free football camp, paid for with a grant from the NFL, last summer, but Shields’ ambition for foundation is much more broad than that.
Will To Do It’s mission got a big boost last week when Aetna presented Shields with a $7,500 check for a Get ’Em Active camp this summer at 68’s Inside Sports.
The money will sponsor 50 area children for a weeklong summer camp geared toward promoting a healthy lifestyle, especially with respect to diet and exercise.
“We’re looking forward to being able to work with these kids and teach them something about nutrition, working out, and just living a healthy lifestyle, understanding that it’s what you put in your body that fuels you and makes you better,” Shields said.
Shields — who said 25 kids from Operation Breakthrough and another 25 from the Kansas City, Kan.-based United STEAM program will be bussed to his training facility for all-day classes and activities — aims to do his part to stem the rising tide of diabetes and obesity our country faces.
There will be discussions about nutrition followed by daily camps that teach the fundamentals of a sport as part of Shields’ preferred whole-person approach.
“What’s cool about the Get ’Em Active camp is they do different things each day,” he said. “It’s not just one-sport specific. One day, we’ll do kickball, one day we’ll do soccer, one day we’ll do football — it just depends on what we need to do to develop them.”
Campers also will get to swim at 68’s Inside Sports pool and workout on other fitness equipment.
“It’s something we used to just do as kids,” a wistful Shields said. “Parents would kick us out and say, ‘Hey, go play.’”
Today’s generation spends a lot more time staring at screens — TVs, phones, computers, iPads, video-game monitors — so physical activity is an increasingly critical habit to foster. It’s also one he hopes can involve parents.
“This is the beginning, as they say, of a beautiful relationship that I’m looking forward to cultivating from this year on,” Shields said of the partnership with Aetna.
Shields has conducted programs with KCK and KCMO schools among others in the past, but he’s hoping that Will To Do It can carve out a more prominent place within many more districts moving forward.
He’s also had discussions or conducted programs previously in the Parkville, Olathe and Shawnee Mission school districts.