Peyton Manning
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The great two-time Super Bowl champ Peyton Manning is teaming up with Riddell for another year of “Smarter Football.”

The most critical thing for a youth football player when stepping out onto a football field is to have fun while also competing to try and win. But for coaches and parents, there’s another part of football that is very important and that is keeping the players safe while playing this great game.

A big part of that safety comes from using the right equipment.

For the last three years, Riddell has presented their “Smarter Football” initiative where ten programs received equipment grants each year and had the gear for the start of the season. This year, with the support of legendary NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, Riddell is rolling out season four of Smarter Football but with the added title of “18 IN 18” for the increased amount of grants from ten to eighteen.

The program is expanding with a connection to Manning’s jersey number that he wore with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.

“The ‘18 in 18’ initiative is a reference to the number of equipment grants we’re giving for the 2018 season of Riddell’s Smarter Football program,” said Manning who serves as Strategic Advisor and Brand Ambassador for Riddell. “It also happens to be my favorite number so it’s a fun way to highlight our shared commitment for such an important movement.”

From now until July 9, teams can apply for the grant by clicking here.

Riddell and Manning will honor eighteen teams that show commitment to growing the game through smarter practice and play.

“It’s amazing to see how the Smarter Football program has benefited so many teams,” said Manning, a five-time NFL Most Valuable Player. “That’s why I wanted to support this Riddell initiative and help bring the ‘18 in 18’ concept to life. Not only does it mean delivering more equipment grants to deserving teams, but it also means that we can shine a light on more programs that are playing the game the right way. Our goal is to inspire the football community to continue to take steps forward in better protecting today’s players.”

All it takes is a few minutes to fill out the form and a team or program could be the recipient of some great equipment to show off on the field this fall. Whoever submits the application has to include the team’s website or Facebook page, a team schedule, team photo, and a brief description, in 250 words or less, what type of equipment the team needs.

What Riddell and Manning are looking for are programs and communities that pledge to advance the sport. From parents and administrators that want to see technologically advanced protective equipment to players pledging more time for team building and community service, to coaches implementing new training techniques or smarter practice plans, “Smarter Football” can be achieved in different ways.

This is a program that Manning is really excited about and it’s clear why he has has been so supportive of it.

“The game of football means so much to so many people,” said Manning. “It’s the players, the coaches, the support staff, the parents, friends, fans, and family who make the game so special. Football brings people together and a program like Smarter Football highlights the power of the community when it works as a unit. That’s what’s truly inspiring about this initiative.”

On their YouTube page, Riddell has a video message from Manning that further explains the “Smarter Football” initiative.

The former University of Tennessee star welcomes programs from the United States and Canada to apply for a grant.

“I feel strongly about maintaining a lasting connection to football through the sport’s next generation,” said Manning, a two-time Super Bowl Champion. “Seeing the kids’ reactions when I brought out their new equipment last year really energized me. It let me know that what we’re doing is working. There’s a lot of passion for the sport and seeing the players and coaches get emotional brought back feelings I had from when I played.”

Football programs are encouraged to use the hashtags “SMARTERFOOTBALL and #18IN18 to show their commitment to the game of football. With Peyton Manning on board with his support, this year’s Riddell “Smarter Football” initiative is shaping up to be the biggest one to date.

Peter has been working in the New York sports media since 1989. He is currently an update anchor for CBS Sports Radio and WFAN. Peter is also the public address announcer for the NY Cosmos of the NASL and is a play by play announcer for high school sports on News 12 Varsity. An avid Islanders, Jets, and Yankees fan, Peter resides on Long Island with his wife Sheryl and their sons Bradley and Jared who side with their mother in rooting for the Mets!