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Before Raiders rookies head into their first training camp, they took time to inspire kids

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Levi Damien

Wednesday, the day before training camp is to begin, all 23 of the Raiders drafted and undrafted rookies took to the field at Memorial High School in Napa for a football clinic for some 327 kids from the Napa Valley Boys and Girls Club.

It's a new initiative called the Raiders Rookie Club in which the kids get to meet this year's crop of NFL hopefuls while doing a Play 60 style field day.

"This is everything," said Raiders fourth round pick Jon Feliciano. "This is what we're supposed to do as athletes and we're blessed to have such an impact on kids' lives and to be out here. You've gotta give back to your community and touch these kids' lives.

"Every kid out here is smiling, people are dancing around. Everyone is interacting with each other and just having a good time and they're touching our lives just as much as we're touching theirs."

The NFL and the Raiders have long teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club and organizations like it to enrich the lives of young people and inspire them to reach for their goals.

One Raiders player who knows a thing or two about goals is fifth round pick linebacker Ben Heeney, who at 12 years old made a list of things he wanted to accomplish and has over the past 11 years checked off all of them, one by one.

"Getting drafted is one thing, but I want to do a lot more than that," said Heeney. "I want to be in this league for a long time, I wanna make plays, I want to make an impact on a team, I want to become a starter. So, the goals have been reached but you continue to set goals as you go on in life. I've got a lot more goals that I still want to accomplish, so I'm definitely not satisfied with anything right now."

Heeney and the other Raiders rookies are the ideal candidates to inspire these kids and give them an experience they won't ever forget.

"A lot of kids aren't exposed to things like this," said Heeney. "I never got the chance to hang out with a bunch of NFL players when I was their age so I think it's something that not a lot of kids get to experience and I think it's definitely something cool and they'll probably remember it for the rest of their lives."

Though Heeney was never exposed to a camp like this as a kid, attending them as a role model is nothing new to him.

"We did this every year in college," Heeney continued. "My head coach for most of my college career was Charlie Weiss. His daughter has special needs so we always did camps with the special needs kids."

"I love doing stuff like this. I love hanging out with little kids, I love just trying to make an impact on the youth of today. This is right up my alley so I love doing this, hanging out with kids."

The feeling was definitely mutual from the kids' side of things. Every kid there was having a great time. The players gave each kid a personal experience, asking each one their name, interacted with them in various types of football drills, and cheered them on the whole way. Some lives were enriched today. Both by these young Raider hopefuls as well as by the young kids who remind these players what being an NFL player is all about.

I periscoped a portion of the event, so it will be available for viewing over the next 20 hours right here.