SNELLVILLE - Every time Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli comes out of the tunnel, he's excited and pumped up about a game he would play for free.
The only other time he has found that passion is when he got into the environment.
"Going green is something that's fun," Mughelli told members of Brookwood Elementary's Eco-Force club Friday.
Mughelli's appearance kicked off the Greening Youth Foundation's Green Speakers series for the 2009-10 school year. The Greening Youth Foundation, based in Snellville, operates programs in a dozen schools in the Atlanta area to encourage students to recognize the importance of respecting and protecting the environment.
The Eco-Force clubs, sponsored by the Greening Youth Foundation, encourage fourth- and fifth-grade students to become schoolwide environmental leaders. Club members conduct school energy and water usage audits and encourage other students to recycle. About 70 students belong to Brookwood Elementary's Eco-Force club.
By recycling paper and cardboard last year, students at Brookwood Elementary saved more than 152 mature trees from being cut down and saved 27 cubic yards of landfill space, said Christie Kearney, the PTA co-chair for the Go Green campaign.
This year, the Greening Youth Foundation has partnered with the Ovie Mughelli Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons to use football players as role models to encourage students to be more protective of the environment.
"We are so excited about this partnership with Ovie's foundation because we know how excited our students will be to meet the Falcons players," said Angelou Ezeilo, executive director of the Greening Youth Foundation. "We are also pleased to be able to show the players how much our youngsters are learning about the environment, and we hope our youngsters motivate players just as much as they motivate our students."
Mughelli encouraged students to keep their dedication to being environmental stewards.
"You can't be selfish and be (concerned about the) environment," he said. "You can't be selfish because it's not about you. ... So many people tomorrow and in the future are depending on what we do today.
"You guys are doing great things," he added. "I want to encourage you to strive for greater things, because there's no telling what you can do."