The sweat was rolling off Bengals offensive lineman Bobbie Williams' forehead and forearms. His hands were moving at a furious speed. One by one, he took on all comers. There was no rest for the 6-foot-4, 345-pound mountain of a man.

That may sound like a typical day in the trenches of the NFL, but on this day, Williams was signing autographs at Evendale Elementary. More than 100 kids and school staff had lined up to get his signature after he spoke as part of the school's anti-bullying campaign. For a solid 25 minutes, Williams calmly signed everything asked of him in the humid gymnasium, joking with everyone.

For journalists who have covered him with the Bengals for the past six seasons, his graciousness and good humor are nothing new. He was the 2009 Bengals team winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, given annually to a player on each NFL team who demonstrates commitment to the values of sportsmanship and courage.

But for the kids at Evendale Elementary, it was quite the memorable experience to meet a bigger-than-life local celebrity.

"When the kids found out a Cincinnati Bengal was coming, you could feel the excitement in the school," says Mandy Pence, a third-grade teacher at Evendale Elementary who helped organize the event.

Player appearances are just one part of a multi-faceted approach to community outreach by the team, its players and head coach Marvin Lewis.

The team's outreach includes: Sponsoring fund-raising events, donations to charitable organizations (food, clothing, autographed items), personal appearances by players and coaches and stadium tours and visits. Staff, players and coaches also serve on various community boards and commissions.

Bengals director of player relations Eric Ball, the coordinator of outreach for the team's players, estimates he receives 40 player appearance requests per week through the team's web site, www.Bengals.com.

Anyone can fill out the online request form: Schools, libraries, hospitals, clubs and fundraising events.

"We get so many requests we have to stick with our niches "” education and health," says Ball, a running back with the Bengals from 1989-94 and a front-office member for 11 years.

Once Ball receives the request, he takes it to the player to see if he can attend. Bengals players made more than 150 official team Greater Cincinnati appearances last season and scores of others on their own locally and nationwide.

Another Bengal, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, originally was scheduled to speak at the school instead of Williams, but he had to cancel at the last minute because of team duties. Enter Williams, who was in New Jersey when he received the call from Ball two days before the event to ask if he could fill in.

"I said, 'Consider it done,' " says Williams, who flew to Cincinnati the next day to be there.

It's that kind of attitude and commitment that has made the Bengals a local philanthropic force.

In addition to team-coordinated player appearances, the Marvin Lewis Community Fund has a strong presence in the community, and more than a dozen Bengals players have their own foundations.

"The players aid us a lot," Lewis says. "From (team-related appearances and the MLCF) they see what they can do on their own."

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who also has his own foundation, is particularly fond of lending his time and money to ventures involving military families, including an Operation Hoops for Troops event at Duke Energy Center in April that raised $10,000 for care packages and other support.

"I've been to a number of military things. A lot of times the husbands are away from their wives and families and it's hard for them," says Palmer, whose father and brother served in the military. "They're out there protecting us, and I appreciate that."

The Bengals work closely with the MLCF, started by the coach and his wife, Peggy, in 2003 with an initial $10,000 donation from the team. Since then, the MLCF has donated more than $5 million and impacted an estimated 250,000 people.

Two of the bigger fundraising events in terms of money and interest are the Marvin Lewis Golf Classic, held in May at Shaker Run Golf Club, and Football 101, an instructional event for women. It has been a sellout every year

The golf classic, which features local and national celebrities and this year featured 15 current players, raises more than $300,000. Football 101 typically raises more than $100,000. The money is used to fund many things from college scholarships for five local graduates to youth coaching to player clinics.

Lewis' philosophy on charitable outreach for himself, the players, the team and pro athletes in general is simple: "We're in a position where we can do some good. It's all about enhancing the lives and opportunities of those in need because we're able to."

Williams sees his service, especially regarding the area's youth, in practical terms.

"Hey, someone is going to have to run this world someday when we get old," Williams says, then adds, pointing to a gymnasium packed with young students, "This is it."
 

 
Notable Bengals community/charity endeavors

Marvin Lewis Community Fund

  • Scholarship Fund: Need-based scholarships given to five students (three MLCF and two Sharon Thomas Memorial Scholarship Fund each receive $20,000).
  • Coach of the Year: Award honors the top high school football coach in the Tristate. Awarded in February.
  • Pink Out at Paul Brown: Cocktail party held in the Bengals' locker room and gym raises money for the Sharon Thomas Memorial Scholarship. Held in March.
  • Cincinnati Scurry: 25 corporate teams compete in Cincinnati's version of "The Amazing Race." Held in April.
  • Golf Classic: Celebrities join former and current players and coaches in putting on the MLCF's largest fundraiser. More than 200 golfers participate. Held in May.
  • Coaching Clinic: 150 regional youth and high school coaches learn from Bengals, college and high school coaches. Held in June.
  • Learning is Cool: Incentive-based program (posters, prizes) for Cincinnati Public Schools students. Year-end ceremony held in June.
  • Youth Football Camp: Bengals and volunteer coaches instruct more than 300 kids on fundamentals of football. Held in June.
  • Football 101: The event for women includes hands-on demonstrations, video presentations, and tours of locker room, weight room and field. To be held Oct. 14.
  • Hometown Huddle: All 32 NFL teams go out on the same day to complete a project in their community. To be held Oct. 19.
  • Cruisin' for a Cure: Two pink vans take qualified women to and from mammograms and treatment throughout the year.

Team Outreach

  • Grassroots Grants: More than $800,000 has been contributed to local youth sports in the last few years.
  • Coach of the Week: Recognizes high school football coaches making an impact. Winners receive a $1,000 donation to the school's football program.
  • Play it Smart: Targets economically disadvantaged high schools. Team representatives teach and mentor student-athletes.
  • Taste of the NFL: Players, coaches and alumni join benefactors of the FreeStore/FoodBank to dine on samples from Cincinnati's finest restaurants. The event has netted as much as $180,000.
  • Hoxworth Blood Drive: Bengals players, alumni, cheerleaders and staff help the Hoxworth Blood Center collect donations at Paul Brown Stadium before the holiday season. The event often results in the largest single-day blood drive in Greater Cincinnati.
  • Canned Food Drive: Benefits Cincinnati's FreeStore/FoodBank. More than 85,000 pounds of food and $68,000 in donations have been secured. The event has netted as much as $180,000.
  • Toys for Tots: The Bengals and the U.S. Marine Corps team up at Paul Brown Stadium to collect Christmas toys for disadvantaged local youth. More than 36,000 new toys and $200,000 have been donated.

Players/Coaches Outreach

  • Players with their own foundations: Carson Palmer, Chad Ochochinco, Leon Hall, Andrew Whitworth, Roy Williams, Cedric Benson, Andre Smith, Pat Sims, Frostee Rucker, Antwan Odom, Chinedum Ndukwe, Brian Leonard, Domata Peko and Antonio Smith. 
  • Running backs coach Jim Anderson: Has been a member of the steering committee of United Way's African-American Leadership Initiative.
  • Assistant head coach Paul Alexander and defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle: Have worked for the D.A.R.E. drug resistance program in schools. Alexander also gives time to the Boy Scouts, and Coyle has spoken to troubled youth at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital while also volunteering with the Leon Hall Football Camp, benefiting the Boys and Girls Club.
  • Tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes: Is a board member of the Greater Cincinnati chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research