WARREN - Friday morning at Avalon Lakes Golf and Country Club looked more like an NFL meet-and-greet than a golf outing.
Former Ohio State quarterback and current Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Smith was taking photos and talking to fans.
Still fresh off of his Super Bowl victory, former Warren G. Harding standout Mario Manningham chatted with golfers as his Super Bowl ring glistened in the sun.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Former Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker A.J. Hawk watches his drive on No. 5 on Friday at Avalon Lakes Golf and Country Club.
Former Ohio State teammates Doug Datish, Bobby Carpenter, A.J. Hawk and Smith joked around like they once did back in their days as Buckeyes.
Bringing these current and former football pros together was the inaugural Inspiring Minds Golf Outing. Eighteen teams, which included seven current and former NFL players, took to the course for a day of golf, and to raise money for the local charity.
"You're always looking at different fundraisers and different things and we wanted to do something that was a little different," said Deryck Toles, Inspiring Minds' founder and executive director. "I was very excited about the turnout. We sold out in our first year."
Inspiring Minds was founded in 2006 by Toles and offers after-school and summer programs to help the lives of under-represented youth in Warren.
Fundraisers are held throughout the year to fund the program, but this was the first year for the golf outing.
Helping Toles and Inspiring Minds coordinate the event, and gather the celebrity golfers, was local businessman Jim Whetstone.
"My best friend from high school is Deryck's cousin and I was introduced to Deryck about six years ago. I was really taken by him and how real the young man really is and his mission to do such great work for the kids here in Trumbull County.
"We were very fortunate to have some great guys to show up - seven current NFL pros and three retired NFL pros and a master chief in the Navy Seals."
As easy as it was for Whetstone to help organize the event, the athletes were more than happy to take part. Hawk, a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, was excited to come into town to help Toles and Inspiring Minds.
"I've known Doug and his father-in-law (Whetstone) since I was 18 at Ohio State," Hawk said. "They asked me to come down, and I'd do anything for that family, they've been so good to me. Plus, I met Deryck a few years ago so I'm glad to come down and help out the cause."
Hawk said that it's an easy time of the year for athletes to participate in charity functions, as players are in between summer workout sessions gearing up for the season. While he's glad to help the cause, he was also hoping his team wasn't relying on him for his golf game.
"The good thing is I don't think the other athletes here are star golfers, so that's good because I won't have too far to go to beat them," Hawk said jokingly. "I'm excited to be here, to help the cause out."
Making his first trip to Warren for the outing was former Penn State player and current Buffalo Bills linebacker Bryan Scott. Like Hawk, he didn't make the trip to showcase his golf skills, but to help out his longtime friend.
"Deryck and I met in 1999 and we competed against each other in the Big 33 game, he played for Ohio and I played for Pennsylvania," Scott said. "Then, we went to Penn State together and roomed together.
"Deryck told me about what he had going on with Inspiring Minds and there was a (Buffalo) game where he came up, brought the kids with him and I was able to meet the kids. So when he told me he had this going up, I just had to come down to help out."
While this was the inaugural outing, Toles hopes it's just the first of many to come to not only give golfers a reason to hit the course, but to also let them know exactly what Inspiring Minds does for the community.
"You've heard of big celebrity golf outings and how successful they were," Toles said. "And in this area, a lot of people love to golf. So this was a chance to touch a whole new market and show a whole new group of people what Inspiring Minds is all about."