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Athletes, kids team up for Sports Hero Day

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PROVO — Alex Arendt gingerly approached former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Rob Morris with pen and paper in hand Saturday morning at Pioneer Park.

Morris, a first-round pick in 2000 by the Colts out of Brigham Young University, looked down at the 6-year-old Pleasant Grove child and smiled.

"Hey, buddy, how you doing?" he said, greeting the little blond boy.

Arendt answers by holding up the pen and paper.

Morris crouches down, signs a quick autograph then asks, "Wanna catch a pass?"

Arendt spent the next five minutes running 10-yard slant patterns with a Grand Canyon-sized smile on his face.

Morris and dozens of other athletes from BYU and Utah Valley State College spent Saturday morning participating in the 3rd annual Sports Hero Day. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Utah County sponsored the event to give children a chance to interact with their local heroes, said Mike Vanchiere, president of the board of directors for the club. The club also hoped to motivate children to stay fit and active throughout their lives.

"It's always good to keep your body and mind active," Vanchiere said.

Sports Hero Day offered children a variety of sports to play, including football, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, box hockey and an obstacle course.

Morris said he's participated in the event for several years, and he enjoys getting children interested in sports.

"They just want to be part of something," he said. "They just want to be part of a team."

Morris threw a few passes to Arendt, but the wobbly throws either landed in front of the boy or past him.

"Sorry, I'm not the best quarterback," Morris laughed.

Arendt didn't seem to mind. In fact, he held up Morris' autograph triumphantly later that day. As much as he enjoyed playing catch with an NFL player, he said he liked volleyball the most of all the sports.

"I was the best one on the team, I think," he said.

BYU basketball star Lee Cummard, who earned co-MVP honors for his efforts last season, also joined in the games, saying he wanted to be among the community and let the children have some fun. He spent some time at the basketball station, but then he went head-to-head against some younger competition in the obstacle course.

"Actually, one of the little guys beat me," he said later.

The Boys & Girls Club of Utah County involved about 7,600 children in its programs in 2007, Vanchiere said. Beyond promoting fitness, the organization strives to teach children to make good, lifelong choices.

"We're really building a foundation all the way into adulthood," Vanchiere said. "I know how corny that sounds, but that's what it's about."

E-mail: jdana@desnews.com