Essendon defender Adam Saad says leading his own academy at The Hangar has been “very special”.

The Bomber said the Adam Saad Academy has fulfilled his passion for using his profile giving back to his community through the help of the club and the AFL.

“Having an academy named after you is special. I had a similar one on the Gold Coast as well and when I got traded back home to Essendon I wanted to do something again,” Saad said.

“It’s been a passion of mine to start up my own academy and help kids with footy development, normal education sessions and a bit of leadership sessions as well.”

Following an extensive selection process, the squad was trimmed down to 25 players who are treated to a program designed to develop their skills both on and off the field.

Saad said balancing both football and life development is important for the young and talented group.

“It’s an eight-week program with a lot of education sessions on nutrition, leadership, team values and a lot of footy development as well; footy skills, footy training sessions.

“An aim for this program is to make them become better people as well, not just better footballers, and teach them about some life skills as well.

“I think they’re learning, they’re very young, but if they can build in these habits and put them in good stead for the future or just in everyday life then that’s a big aim for the Adam Saad Academy.”

Saad said he takes great joy in seeing the rapid progress of the squad members as they flourish in a fresh pathway that never existed when he started his football journey.

He described the opportunity to play a key role in guiding the kids and joining them on their own journey through football and life as “a dream”.

“I still remember when I was 12 to 15 years old I loved footy and we never really had pathways or programs like this.

“You see the kids grow and you see the kids improve, even though it’s an eight-week program. You see them once a week and if it’s footy skills or if it’s learning about nutrition, the boys are learning, enjoying it and embracing it.

“If we can continue building programs like this and pathways for multicultural kids, we can hopefully get them on AFL lists.

“Giving back to people that love footy and all of the young kids, if you can make a difference in someone’s life whether it be on the footy field or in everyday life, it’s a dream.”

“To give back to the community and anyone who supports the club and supports you as a person, you just want to give back and help out where you can.”

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Saad said he hopes all 25 players will one day get the opportunity to be drafted to an AFL list and he encouraged all fans to get behind the squad when they take on Collingwood’s Next Generation Academy in an exciting curtain-raising game at the MCG next Friday, August 23.

“Hopefully everyone can come down and see the boys play, there’s a lot of talent out there.”