Lasting impressions

Lasting impressions

Rob Gronkowski, George Wilson and Golden Tate passed along some important life lessons to Canadian students this Spring.

The three players participated in the league’s NFL Take a Player to School program, visiting schools in Ontario, New Brunswick and British Columbia.

The program, an annual national online sweepstakes, saw four students win a chauffeured ride to school with an NFL player, NFL merchandise, and a seat of honour at a special assembly in front of their entire school.

“Sometimes a different voice is needed in order to get through to kids,” said Wilson, the Buffalo Bills captain who accompanied twelve-year old Tikal Charles-Taylor to Toronto’s Deer Park Public School. “As NFL players we can really get their attention, and talk about things like bullying, self esteem and the importance of physical activity.”

Wilson also accompanied twelve-year-old Joshuwa Cappe-Morre to Bowmanville’s Holy Family Catholic School. When Wilson related the story of how he was bullied in middle school, more than 500 students Holy Family Catholic students were completely silent.

“I wasn’t always always this size,” Wilson told the rapt students. “I know what it feels like to be scared. I urge you to be good to each other. Be good to people who are different from you. You never know where they will end up.”

Each of the four NFL Take a Player to School visits also included an introduction to the league’s ‘Play 60’ concept. The players delivered physical education equipment to each school and demonstrated some of the simple activities that can help students achieve the goal of being active for 60 minutes each day.

“Schools are a great place to establish lifelong habits when it comes to fitness and nutrition,” said New England Patriots record-setting tight end Rob Gronkowski, who accompanied thirteen year-old Alex Allain  to Nelson Rural School in Miramichi, New Brunswick. “You have to engage kids in an exciting way in order to get through to them though, and I think we’ve done that here today.”

The players all received royal welcomes from the schools. At Delta BC’s Cougar Canyon Elementary, where Seattle Seahawk Golden Tate accompanied nine-year-old Keanen Tregaskis to school, homemade banners, murals and notes lined the halls and gymnasium.

“I felt very, very welcome – from the moment we got out of the limo,” said Tate, a former Biletnikoff award winner as the NCAA’s top receiver. “They actually had posters, where they painted my full face and painted me in action shots. So I felt very welcome.”

The visits left lasting impressions not only on the students, but also on school administrators.

“George Wilson has a wonderful message for students and he does a lot in the community,” said Barb Smith, Principal, Holy Family Catholic School. “George emphasizes the importance of studying hard, and of looking after our school. He also encourages students to pursue their dreams. George is the kind of athlete that is good for students to get to know and look up to.”

George Wilson leads the Buffalo Bills on the field and in the community. A team captain since 2008, Wilson, a safety, recorded 106 tackles and four interceptions in 2011. Wilson is also a passionate spokesman for the NFL’s ‘Play 60’ youth fitness program, and speaks at dozens of schools, hospitals and charity events. Wilson also has a history of overcoming obstacles. Undrafted as a receiver coming out of the University of Arkansas, Wilson switched from offense to defense in 2007 and hasn’t looked back since.

New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski is a superstar in the making. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end is only entering his third season in the NFL, yet already holds a number of league records. In 2011 Gronkowski scored 18 touchdowns (most ever by a tight end in a single season), recorded 1,327 receiving yards (most ever by a tight end in a single season), and became the first tight end to lead the league in receiving touchdowns for an entire season. Gronkowski comes from a long line of athletes. His grandfather, Ignatius Gronkowski, competed for the USA in cycling at the 1924 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France.

Golden Tate was a second round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 and is now entering his third season with the team. A former star at the University of Notre Dame (Tate was awarded the Biletnikoff award as the top receiver in college football in 2009), Tate caught 35 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns last season. The Tennessee native also played baseball at Notre Dame, and was even selected in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft by the San Francisco Giants.