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For Local Professional Athletes, Faith, Family, Finances Are Top Concerns

Fans Monday got an inside look into the world of professional athletes from New York's major sports organizations

Sports enthusiasts turned out in droves for the second annual, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local residents to get inside the heads of professional athletes. 

Jayson Nix and David Phelps of the Yankees, Prince Amukamara of the NY Giants, Jeremy Vuolo of the Red Bulls, Mike Rupp of the Rangers and many lucky fans and families were in attendance for this special assembly at the Wyckoff Y.

“More money in the bank brought a lot more responsibility, so now I make a lot of decisions on my own,” said Giants cornerback Amukamara. “You have to find the right agent, tax guys, and financial adviser.”

Most of them mentioned how their faiths played an important part in both professional and private lives.

“My two parents had the most impact on me with the priorities they had, and what they cared about most was my spiritual well-being,” said Vuolo, goalkeeper for the New York Red Bulls. “My mom’s proudest moment was when I got baptized.”

“God blessed me with ability, and I didn’t want to waste that blessing,” said Yankees pitcher Phelps. “You can’t be afraid to fail.”

All of the athletes talked about the importance of education and family and the values that meant the most to them. 

“Getting accepted into the University of Notre Dame was one of the highlights of my life so far,” said Phelps.

“I knew what I wanted to do early on,” said Yanks infielder Nix. “I made a sacrifice and I just tried to improve, grow up, and gradually achieve my goals.”

“Money changed the people around me,” said Amukamara. “I didn’t envision that happening, but things are starting to smooth out.”

“I’m blessed with kids and when my daughter smiles at me," said Rangers center Rupp. "Regardless of how I play on the ice that day, everything is fine."

Special “Hall of Fame” sponsors who shelled out an extra $300 attended a meet-and-greet reception with the athletes beforehand and received autographed balls. YMCA Director of Public Relations Kristine Pepper and NY Metro Area Athletes in Action Director George McGovern orchestrated the event for sports fans young and old. 

Fans also got the chance to bid on silent auction items in the gymnasium before the athletes sat down the Q&A session. 

The athletes focused on their personal lives, religious beliefs and journeys into professional sports — with attention paid to the challenges and pressures caused by celebrity and fame.

“There’s so much pressure and emphasis on athletes, and they often seclude themselves and live a double life,” said McGovern. “The celebrity spotlight sometimes causes problems.”

McGovern also told all the young people in the audience to pay close attention and try to learn a life lesson from each of the athletes.         

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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