Nate Solder picked up where Rob Gronkowski left off, building the team’s fan base in New Brunswick one grade-schooler at a time.
Solder, the Patriots first round draft choice in 2011 and a starting offensive lineman with the club, visited Centreville Community School on May 1. Centreville is in central New Brunswick, northwest of Fredericton.
The visit was part of the NFL’s Take a Player to School sweepstakes, and included a Play 60 educational session for the school, an assembly with Solder, and gifts of physical education equipment and a $5,000 Samsung technology grant. Similar visits took place earlier this Spring in Edmonton (Detroit Lion Ndamukong Suh), Surrey (Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman) and Kitchener (Buffalo Bill CJ Spiller).
“There is a tremendous passion for the NFL and Patriots here,” said Solder. “The school and the town have welcomed me with open arms.”
Second-grader D.J. Wolverton is certainly a fan for life. The contest winner got to ride to school with Solder in a limousine and give Tom Brady’s six-foot-eight, 320-pound protector a tour of his classroom.
“This is certainly Patriots country,” one of the school’s teachers was overheard saying.
Rob Gronkowski received a similar welcome in Miramichi last Spring.
“It’s just wild that there’s so many Pats fans up here and this is all the way up here in Canada,” Gronkowski said after entering the packed gymnasium at Nelson Rural School.
“We’re about a three-hour plane flight away, so it’s a pleasure though.”
During the 2012 season the New England Patriots sold more merchandise in Canada than any other NFL team.
The Steelers, Packers, Raiders and Bills rounded out the top-five.