"Do any of you know what F.A.I.L. stands for?"
A question posed by UDFA defensive end George Tarlas to several young men at Spring Mountain Youth Camp on Thursday afternoon prompted looks around the room and puzzled expressions. The looks on the faces of Tarlas' fellow rookies seemed to resemble those of the adolescents they were speaking with.
The custom acronym had entered Tarlas' mind after one of the young men at the juvenile facility asked the panel of rookies, 'What obstacles have you had to overcome to get where you are now?"
Tarlas, a Chalkida, Greece, native, first learned what F.A.I.L. meant while in high school in Idaho – and it's stuck with him since.
"F.A.I.L. stands for 'first attempt in learning,'" Tarlas told the group. "That's the major part of becoming successful at something or overcoming bad circumstances that you might get involved in. The main thing to do is don't be so hard on yourself. You've got to learn from it, develop and do better the next time. But there's no way of developing unless you fail at it, because that's the only way to master something."
The Las Vegas Raiders' 2023 rookie class came to the correctional facility for an open conversation and lunch with the Spring Mountain Golden Eagles.
Spring Mountain's eight-man football team plays in Class 1A of Clark County and is just one of the various therapeutic, educational, social, medical and recreational programs provided to help reform troubled youth. Spring Mountain serves around 240 young men each year, ages 12-18.
The Raiders Community Relations department and Spring Mountain have been planning this event for three years now, with unforeseen events such as the pandemic preventing it from happening until now. Cesar Lemos, manager of the youth camp, believes an opportunity like this for the young men in his facility is invaluable.
"Kids always look up to athletes, and having them tell their journey and their story has made an huge impact," said Lemos. "Walking around the dining hall talking to the kids, they're telling me, 'Thank you so much. We appreciate this so much.' And that's what we're trying to do, is try to give our kids opportunities and experiences they never would've had in the environments and situations they come from. Giving them hope and letting them know that people care about them."
During the visit, the Raiders also donated $15,000 to the youth football program for the enhancement of their facilities and equipment. The check was presented by UDFAs Dalton Wagner from Arkansas and McClendon Curtis from Chattanooga. This event was something Curtis didn't take lightly, and took the time to share that his journey to where he is today involved being at a facility similar to Spring Mountain in his youth.
"It really changed my view on life and how to become a leader and also not follow those people in the wrong crowd," Curtis said of his own experiences. "Once I understood that and followed those people that gave me direction, my life got easier. I take it everywhere I go.
"It was great being able to sit down and talk with these guys because they have great minds. They have great ideas and all you want to do is give them a little piece more. You want to give them what mistakes you made so they won't make them. I said, 'It's OK to walk away. It's OK to be the bigger man. At the end of the day, you want to be out of the system and you want to be successful for you and also in the future, your family.'"