Students in the after-school fashion design program at South Shore International College Prep had been practicing their runway skills for weeks.
They were nervous, but excited, as the NFL Draft approached.
That’s because they had been drafted by the NFL to perform in the first NFL fashion show included in programming for the three-day football festival.
“This is the first time in the Draft’s 80-year history that they’re doing this. South Shore is so honored to have 32 of the 75 students in our program selected to model NFL wear from the league’s 2016-2017 catalog, representing the 32 NFL franchises,” said Stanley Coleman, the school’s program manager.
“I can’t tell you how excited they were leading up to this. They earned this honor, and they represented our school wonderfully,” he said.
Not even rain could dampen the students’ spirits on Saturday, as they hit the red carpet while a DJ spun runway-worthy hits. The mob of folks who came out on the last day of NFL Draft Town activities watched, snapped photos and cheered in the tent city.
“I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m more excited than nervous,” said Re’Jaun Pink, 18, of South Shore, who graduated last year. She is working and still participates in the after-school program.
She was modeling a black-and-gray Oakland Raiders jersey with high heels, with fashion blue jeans and jacket supplied by Akira clothing in Hyde Park.
Brian Murray, 18, of the East Side, who will graduate in June and plans to study electrical engineering at Morehouse College or Northern Illinois University, was modeling a maroon, white and yellow Washington Redskins crew neck, with gray slacks and matching dress shoes.
“It’s really a surreal kind of experience. I’m nervous to a certain extent, and just focused on remembering the routine and making sure I keep my facial expressions strong,” he said before hitting the runway. “It’s a great opportunity we’ve been afforded by the NFL, giving us a chance for real world experience and exposure in modeling — something that I’ve always been interested in.”
The festival, which set up camp in Grant Park April 28-30, brought fans 15 football fields — or 90,000 square feet — of free football activities and youth clinics; athletic games and historical exhibits; autograph sessions, and of course an NFL Shop filled with the merchandise modeled by the students.
The fashion show by the Chicago Public Schools students was part of the League’s efforts to always include the local community in the celebration, said Sunday Billings, NFL senior events manager.
“This was very new to us. It was a way to showcase the NFL, all 32 teams, and we thought it was a great opportunity for the schools and community to celebrate Draft,” Billings said.
“It turned out to be fun. The DJ was great. Some of the NFL legends stopped by, and even though it was raining, we had a great turnout, and the teens made the best of it. We don’t know where we’re going next year, but doing this again is certainly on the table, as is everything else right now.”
For DeShawn Thomas, quarterback and captain of the South Shore school’s Tars football team, the opportunity was not only about modeling gear but being tapped to participate in an activity of the league he hopes to be part of someday.
“I was really proud to be a part of NFL Draft 2016, especially after coming to watch it last year,” said Thomas, 17, of South Chicago, who modeled a gray and tan New Orleans Saints hoodie, with jeans and Nike Foamposites.
He was accompanied on the runway by four other members of his Tars team.
“We were all very excited,” he said afterward. “It’s a big dream of mine to make it into the NFL, so to be able to walk the runway and honor the NFL was an amazing opportunity. I just imagined I was on the football field.”