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‘Football is growing and kids love it:’ Bengals, Hilton introduce football to Woodford students

Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton intercepts an ordinary school day at Woodford Academy, turning the gym into the gridiron with the help of Future Fans. 

Mike Hilton Smile Football and other sports may be intimidating or hard to understand at a young age — enter Future Fans, founded by Mike Schroder and Michael Gold. They’ve retooled their award-winning football education product for community events through their partnership with the Bengals and cornerback Mike Hilton who helped bring that to life at Woodford Academy.

“Football is the best game in the world,” Hilton said. “We want to get kids active and get them going and healthy.”

Hilton and Woodford students read through a picture book explaining rules, played games and danced as a group to learn the basics of football. Together, the Bengals and Future Fans are helping teach the sport to its next generation of fans and athletes through interactive in-school sessions. 

It can be challenging for parents to share the same passion and bond with their young children over sports. This dawned on Schroder, a lifelong Bengals fan, when his then-5-year-old daughter was enamored by Cincinnati’s run to Super Bowl LVI but could only begin to grasp the game of football.

“She didn’t understand the game, and me teaching her directly wasn’t working,” Schroder said. “We came up with these parallel ways to teach kids the sport and eventually connect it to the sport itself.”

Future Fans reimagines football for younger age groups so it’s as fun and simple to learn as possible, making it easier for parents like Schroder to connect with their children. Guest appearances from athletes like Hilton are what make it an unforgettable experience for the kids.

Future Fans CoFounder Assiting with Reading“It couldn’t be more exciting to have a player come and draw that attention and to have them engage and learn a little bit about football in these ways. It’s really relatable to young kids,” Gold said.

Everybody’s journey begins somewhere. Hilton remembers first playing sports at the Boys and Girls Club and attending Atlanta Falcons games with his father. Now, Hilton is getting kids started and making a similar impact in the community that he and his team mean so much to.

“I definitely hope this is a stepping stone for a lot of them, Hopefully, they get involved with football,” Hilton said. “I’m just blessed to be in this position, and I just want to do what I can to give back.”

Hilton jokes a few students confused him for teammate Ja’Marr Chase and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but was just glad they already knew a thing or two about the game.

“That just shows football is growing and kids love it,” Hilton said.

Schroder and Gold said the session at Woodford was their third of four programs planned for this season, and school visits during the team’s offseason this coming spring are being planned.

To see all that Future Fans has to offer to families, visit:

Mike Hilton Ring Toss Game