ARLINGTON -- Anthony Thompson didn't know what to do for his touchdown celebration. He had seen other kids do the moonwalk, try to dunk over the goal post or go with the traditional spike.
So, at the spur of the moment, the 14-year-old from Garland decided to do a somersault after hauling in a pass and crossing into the end zone.
"It just happened," Thompson said with a smile.
It was one of the many highlights for Thompson and the rest of the 275 children who participated in a free AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic and NCAA Football clinic Tuesday at Cowboys Stadium.
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The children worked with high school and college coaches throughout the area on drills ranging from how to get into a three-point stance to punting to running a post route into the end zone.
The biggest thrill for all of the participants, though, was playing on the same field as their idols: Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin.
"This is awesome," said 7-year-old Kel'yon Archie of Dallas. "I'm a running back, but I like Tony Romo."
It's the second consecutive year the clinic has been held in the area, and it's a program that will be held annually for the foreseeable future.
NCAA Football, which is a branch of IMG College that works closely with the NCAA in promoting college football, decided to put on the clinic to get its message out. This year, there will be 22 clinics throughout the country that will reach more than 7,000 kids.
"We just want them to learn the game and have fun doing it," said David Bertram, executive director of NCAA Football. "It's also a good health benefit for the kids, and just an honor to be able to come to these types of venues, such as Cowboys Stadium."
Outside of the football clinic, the parents were able to visit with Keri Boyce, the Big 12's assistant commissioner of compliance, on how to get their children a scholarship and different eligibility requirements.
And former Dallas Cowboys and University of Miami defensive tackle Russell Maryland spoke to the children about doing the right things in order to get where they want to go.
"My message to these kids is, whatever they do in life -- football, basketball, lawyer, doctor -- just do it the best you possibly can," said Maryland, who resides in Southlake and brought 7-year-old son Russell Jr. to the clinic. "As soon as you step on the field, come with a great attitude and be ready to work. You never know where you're going to end up. When I was these kids' age growing up in Chicago, I never had an inkling I'd play high school football, let alone college or in the pros."
Maryland, who was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in May, also shared some memorable stories from his playing days.
He recalled the 1991 Cotton Bowl when he had nine tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble to help the Hurricanes to a 46-3 victory over Texas. Maryland remembered reading about Texas offensive tackle Stan Thomas talking trash in the newspapers, and used that as motivation.
"I won the Outland Trophy that year, and [Thomas] said he was going to show who deserved it," Maryland said, smirking. "You think he took it? No."
Maryland went on to talk about being selected No. 1 overall in the 1991 draft by the Cowboys, and helping them win three Super Bowls.
Maryland was particularly fond of the 1995 team that beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, Ariz.
"We had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin on that team," Maryland said. "Those were the stars, but we also had some great role players like Mark Tuinei, Robert Jones and Tony Tolbert."
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760