Play 60? Make that Play their way to $10,000

Posted Dec 4, 2012

Seahawks receivers Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Charly Martin and Ben Obomanu helped honor the kids from Pioneer Elementary on Tuesday morning at an assembly recognizing them as a Super School.

AUBURN – The smiles on the kids’ faces said it all. Their chants of Sea-Hawks added the audio. The posters they had created to decorate the gym and the handmade Hawk Heads they wore supplied the visual aids.

The stars at a Play 60 event attended by Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Charly Martin and Ben Obomanu on Tuesday morning, however, were not the Seahawks’ quartet of wide receivers but the kids they came to honor.

During an assembly at Pioneer Elementary School, principal Debra Gray and PE teacher Michael McKinley were presented with a check for $10,000 because their institution was selected the Super School for the state of Washington in the NFL’s Play 60 program.

“More than anything, this is for the kids,” McKinley said. “I think this is just awesome for the kids. These kids, they’re low on the social-economic rung and they kind of sit on that fence a little bit. So to have something like this for them, and to have something where they can be excited about in their life, this is just awesome. It’s awesome.”

The awesome part for the kids at the K-5 school seemed to be getting an up-close look at some real NFL players, and team mascot Blitz.

“To workout with them,” 11-year-old Jessica Cooper said when asked about the best part of the event.

That happened after the assembly, when McKinley and the Seahawks’ players led a select group of students through a five-station activity session. And that’s also what this day, and this event, was all about.

Pioneer Elementary was selected for the Play 60 honor because it honors the spirit of the program. The students have two recesses each day, including one that’s geared to walking and running. The students also have fruit and vegetable snacks each afternoon.

“We have so many exercise and healthy programs for kids at this school, I doubt if there’s a school that has more,” Gary said. “That’s what caused us to win this award.”

The money that comes with the honor will be used to purchase new equipment for the school’s gym, Gary said, so the efforts of the current students also will benefit future students.

The Seahawks’ players were pleased to be a part of this special day, and they helped spread the Play 60 message as well.

“This is for a great cause,” Baldwin said. “Play 60, we’re trying to sweep the nation with it and emphasize that not only is it important for you to do well in school but it’s also important for you to get out and exercise and get oxygen to your brain so you can continuously do well in school.”

Added Tate: “This is just a small way that we can give back. Play 60, I really like what they have going with stressing 60 minutes of exercise every day, eating healthy – things I think kids around the world struggle with. It’s a very unique experience, and hopefully I can touch at least one person here today.”

Offered Martin: “This is part of the whole experience of being in the NFL – being able to give back. This is one of the reasons I’ve felt so blessed the past four years to play and do this for a living, is what you can do for the community and the kids. Because we were all in their shoes at one point, so I know what it means because I was one of them.”

As Martin was talking in Gary’s office, a line of saucer-eyed kids were walking by outside the window on their way to the assembly. It was a hero’s welcome from the real heroes of this day.

“I never get used to it,” Martin said with a smile. “I tell everyone, we’re just normal people. But it’s fun to think back when you were in elementary school. I never had the opportunity to have an NFL player come to my school. So I know how much fun it is for them, and it’s just as much fun for us.”

Obomanu made his point during a portion of the assembly where students got to ask the players questions. For Obomanu, it was what he would be doing if he wasn’t a professional football player.

“My nickname is ‘The President,’ ” he said, turning his back to show how the name on the back of his jersey was close to that of that other President. “For me, education has always been important. Can you imagine, when I was your age I went to school and my mom worked at the school? My mom was a teacher. So anytime I ever got in trouble, they used to always send me to my mom’s class instead of the principal’s office.”

After the laughter subsided, he said, “When I was a little kid, I never thought I would play NFL football. I always wanted to be a lawyer. Even now, my goal is to be a lawyer and do some things in law.”

He then asked if any of the kids wanted to be a lawyer, and several cheered.

“The thing about it is, everybody can’t grow up and be a football player.” Obomanu said. “So even though we’re football players now, we won’t be football players forever. So one thing I want to do is be a lawyer. And one day, possibly, I may do some political stuff, too.”

With that, the kids cheered wildly once again, on a day when the recognition was all about them.