ORLANDO -- Duke Johnson gave an update on his fractured ankle, Denzel Perryman talked about grappling with a life-altering decision, Tracy Howard described the backyard-type brawl expected at the Russell Athletic Bowl — and everyone seemed to have a grand time with dozens of children at Give Kids the World Village.
The Hurricanes and their Louisville counterparts spent Thursday at the 70-acre village in Kissimmee, which houses more than 140 families of children with life-threatening illnesses and gives them trips to several nearby theme parks.
“We celebrate Christmas every Thursday year round,’’ said the organization’s president, Pamela Landwirth. “We celebrate Halloween every Monday year round. Every night there’s a special party for the children and their families.’’
Landwirth said the football players were “amazing.’’
“For these kids, these guys are larger than life,’’ she said. “They’re heroes. They can make a huge difference in their lives.’’
Together, the players and kids did everything from shimmying with hula-hoops to playing life-sized checkers to slam-dunking mini basketballs.
“They showed us a nice video on the bus just describing everything that a lot of these kids have been through and talking to some of their family members — that was already tough watching that,’’ UM quarterback Stephen Morris said. “Coming here, you just want to show these kids a good time, make them smile, make them laugh. Christmas was [Wednesday], so we’ll try to give them some gifts and talk to the parents and family members of the kids who are going through a tough time right now.
“Personally for me, it makes me realize how fortunate I am and how fortunate everyone is on this team to be playing football and to have a healthy life. It just makes you appreciate every little thing in your life.’’
UM tailback Duke Johnson, who broke his right ankle against Florida State on Nov. 2, leaned on crutches as he watched his teammates. “Since I’ve been up here I’ve just been walking around, applying pressure without the crutches on my own,’’ he said. “I really don’t need the crutches. They just recommended that I have them.’’
Johnson said he hasn’t gotten a time frame yet for his full recovery.
“I’m just taking it day by day and getting better,’’ he said. “I get a checkup every other week.’’
Linebacker Denzel Perryman is a new father to Ella Grace, born Nov. 12, making him especially attentive to his surroundings Thursday.
“We put smiles on kids’ faces,’’ he said of the outing. “We just made somebody’s day.’’
Perryman said he already talked with position coach Micheal Barrow about his upcoming decision regarding whether he should declare early for the NFL Draft.
“I’m going to wait until literally after the bowl game to really sit down and think about all that,’’ he said, admitting that the decision will be a lot harder than he had ever imagined.
“When you first come in, you always have that thought, ‘I’m going to be three-and-done.’ And [when] the decision comes for you to make, it’s kind of tough. … It’s like, ‘Wow, you know, this decision can change my life pretty much.’ ’’
As for cornerback Tracy Howard, he not only talked about the “great feeling’’ he got spending time with the children and realizing how appreciative they are, but he spoke of Saturday’s bowl game against the Cardinals.
“It definitely makes it more exciting, more fun to know some of those guys on the other side of the ball,’’ Howard said. “Just even for bragging rights a little bit. But at the end of the day, they’re still on the other team. We still have to come and battle.’’