What Do NFL Players Do On Draft Night? Go Bowling!

Travis Johnson & Kailee Wong pose with Houston Texans Cheerleaders (Marissa & Larissa) (Photo: MD Turner Photography)

While most NFL fans and players were glued to their HD televisions for the draft Thursday night, there were a select few more concerned with supporting a local cause: Travis Johnson, defensive end drafted by the Texans in 2005, and his Travis Johnson Foundation, which provides grants for rehabilitation for children suffering strokes and other major illnesses, as his four-year-old daughter did.

Among the players in attendance: Andre Johnson (Texans), Johnathan Joseph (Texans), Greg Jones (Jacksonville Jaguars), Dunta Robinson (Atlanta Falcons) and Tina Thompson (the WNBA Seattle Storm) just to name a few. The only game these big names were worried about was who could walk away with bragging rights as the best bowler.

The sports-studded evening at 300 Houston Bowling Lounge off Bunker Hill was filled with smack talking, high fives, jokes — and, more importantly, lots of donations.

At the beginning of the event, founder and former Texan (now free agent) Travis Johnson told the story of his daughter Zoe and their firsthand account as she suffered two strokes, which caused paralysis in the left side of her body. He recognizes and is thankful that his family was able to provide her with the best care during this trying ordeal, but realizes others may not have the means.

“We were fortunate, but not everyone’s fortunate in this kind of situation. The goal of the Travis Johnson Foundation is to let them be kids again,” he said before thanking his former teammates for joining him at his event.

Chris Hope (Tennessee Titans Strong Safety and Florida State guy), Andre Johnson & Travis Johnson strike a pose. (Photo: MD Turner Photography)

Even a few of his former Florida State teammates flew in just to show their support for the big night.

It was a big night in more ways than one. It also happened to be Travis Johnson’s 30th birthday where his wife surprised him with a 3-0 red velvet and vanilla cake. Let me be the first to say this may be a group of extraordinary charitable athletes, but they cannot carry a tune. I’ve never before laughed and cringed at the singing of “Happy Birthday,” but I knew it came from a good place.

The First Annual ‘Strike Out Strokes’ Celebrity Bowling Tournament was presented by Momentum Porsche Jaguar Land Rover, where guests were either personally invited or donated to to cause to attend.

The only lull in the competitive bowling or “thank you for all you do” talk was around 9:30 p.m. when the four TVs in the private bowling room showed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell set to announce the Texans’ first-round pick in the draft (26th overall). The sound came on and the crowd got quiet as Goodell announced the Texans pick of linebacker Whitney Mercilus (marking the fourth straight year the Texans have drafted a defensive player in the first round of the draft).

Shortly after the pick, the crowd returned their focus to more important things: The fierce bowling tournament to raise funds to provide assistance to families in need of financial support for children who have suffered major illnesses and are in need of rehabilitation or therapeutic services.

Tina Thompson, WNBA Player for Seattle Storm bowls (Photo: MD Turner Photography)

“The funds raised through this event will provide a better quality of life for children who have suffered a major illness or trauma and need rehabilitation services.  I know firsthand how this affects families.  It’s important for them to know there are people out there who care, that I care,” Travis Johnson said.

This article was featured on Culture Map, Houston’s Daily Digital Magazine in the sport’s section.