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Meeting, greeting and eating at Bengals 15th Annual Taste of the NFL

The Bengals’ 15th Annual Taste of the NFL event was a great experience as Bengals players mingled with fans and Cincinnati restaurants dished out great food.

Even though I only live half an hour from downtown Cincinnati, I very rarely get a chance to go to Cincinnati Bengals games. So when I was offered this opportunity to go to the Bengals Taste of the NFL event I was extremely excited. Not only would I get to have delicious food served by some of the best restaurants in Cincinnati, but I would also get to interact with many of the players.

Cincinnati Bengals’ 15th Annual Taste of the NFL raised more than $130,000 for the Freestore Foodbank. That's the equivalent of 390,000 meals for hungry children and families in the Cincinnati community. The event was hosted by Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert and Chef Jean Robert de Cave and featured many Cincinnati restaurants serving up food as well as an auction to raise money.

During the event, I got a chance to talk with many players and get my picture taken with them. Many fans also walked around getting memorabilia signed.

Me and Cody Core

One of the first players I reached out to was recently-injured wide receiver Cody Core. I wanted to see how he was doing following getting injured in practice just hours earlier. He told me “I’ll be good,” before he moved on to the next fans who wanted to speak with him. At the event, he was riding around on a scooter to keep his leg elevated, which was also the case during Thursday’s minicamp practice. The hope is he will be ready for training camp and preparing to make a big impact this season.

Another huge part of Taste of the NFL is the Taste part. At the event tons of restaurants come and prepare some of their best food for those in attendance to try. Some of it can be a little bit weird, but all of it delicious. There were prime rib steak sandwiches, maple bacon donuts, barbecue grilled cheese, steak tacos, and meatballs and garlic bread. All of these were from some of the best restaurants in Cincinnati such as Cooper’s Hawk and Morton’s The Steakhouse. All of these restaurants came to donate their time, money, and food making skills to a great cause.

When I asked Bengals owner Mike Brown about his goal for the season, he said it’s, “to win every game.”

The Bengals have one of the best Taste of the NFL events every year as one of the speakers said they always raise among the most money in the league. I can see why as everyone involved clearly has a passion to want to help those who are less fortunate and help raise money for the city they play for and love. You can see all of these players have the city’s and the fan base’s best interests at heart. Tyler Eifert, the host for this year’s event, took it very seriously and stayed later than most other players, signing autographs and taking pictures.

Sorry for the blurriness in this photo with Tyler Eifert.

During the event, the Freestore Foodbank gave out three of its Hope Awards to those who have ongoing support for the Freestore Foodbank. The recipients were Mike and Nancy Brown, Marvin Lewis, and Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel of JR Cincy Restaurants. I am glad to know that the owner and head coach of the Bengals are so dedicated to this event and so dedicated to giving back to the city of Cincinnati.

The event provides Bengals fans with a great night and opportunity to engage with players in ways fans normally don’t get to. If you wanted to get an autograph from every player on the team, this is the event to try your luck. Players are hanging out and laughing and constantly taking pictures with fans. Even the players that seem more shy like Geno Atkins were out and about hanging out with fans.

Ryan Hewitt, C.J. Uzomah and Jake Kumerow all making me look short

I really appreciated the opportunity to get up close and personal with Bengals players and I was even able to ask a question to some of them.

Me and Carlos Dunlap, who told me his sack goal for the season is 23.

Carlos Dunlap told me his sack goal this season is 23. The trio of Jake Kumerow, C.J Uzomah, and Ryan Hewitt were standing off to the side hanging out together as people milled about. Early on in the night, the players had taken over the couches and were all hanging out together, in ways that we as fans don’t normally get to see. I even got to meet my draft crush who the Bengals ended up picking, John Ross. Ross even agreed to play Call of Duty with me sometime, which I of course will be taking him up on.

Me and John Ross

This event was fantastic for getting to interact with the players like ordinary people and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to go. I strongly urge that if anyone has the money to spare next year and would like to meet Bengals players and talk with them like old friends catching up, you should buy a ticket to this event next year. What can be better than hanging out with your favorite Bengals players while simultaneously getting to eat delicious food from the best restaurants in Cincinnati. Even better, your ticket money is going to help those who need it, which is a great reason to go all on its own.

Me and Russell Bodine