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    Football Players Participate in 'Cats in the Classroom

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    In conjunction with last week's Paint Evanston Purple festivities, as well as Evanston Day at Ryan Field last Saturday, Northwestern football players took to three local elementary schools--St. Athanasius, Lincolnwood, and Kingley--to participate in the 'Cats in the Classroom initiative.

    Sophomore punter Brandon Williams took time out to detail the Wildcats' visit to St. A's which is located just one block away from Ryan Field.

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    Watch Video of the 'Cats at Lincolnwood Elementary

    After being told about an opportunity to share with grade school age students at St. Athanasius, five of my teammates and I were eager to sign up. To be honest, we expected to be sharing to a smaller group of maybe 30 or 50 students so you can imagine our surprise when finding out that we were to be a large part of the school's first yearly assembly. At first, no one was sure about talking to more like 350 students, but once we arrived at St. A's, we realized we were in good hands.

    Mrs. Castagna, the principal, invited us into her office when we arrived at the school after a short walk down Ashland Avenue from Ryan Field. None of us had been called to the principal's office in years, but after some jokes about us being in trouble, we were introduced to what would be happening in the assembly.

    Mrs. Castagna shared with us the school's theme this year of, "Called to Learn, Love and Lead," something that resounded with each one of us as members not only of the Northwestern football team, but also as students at a prestigious academic institution. We have understood this idea from the moment we stepped foot in Evanston knowing that learning takes priority over our athletic careers, but also that learning is not limited to merely academic knowledge, but also includes our social lives. Learning to love over 100 teammates as a family and learning to lead, not only on the field but also in the community. It's safe to say we have learned a lot.

    Jeff Budzien, Jake Gregus, Pat Hickey, Chris Gradone, Steve Flaherty and I took our seats in the front of the gymnasium as the students poured in. Ranging from kindergarteners to eighth graders and arranged by age, they slowly filled the basketball court from front to back. Mrs. Castagna kicked off the assembly by introducing the year's theme and welcomed the students. The student council then asked us questions about aspects of being part of a team. We were able to share with them everything from how we balance school and athletics, to how we deal with issues within our team. The students listened attentively and, after the student council finished with their list of questions, eagerly asked us about our positions on the team and about how much we could bench press. Since two of us are punters, two more kickers and a long snapper, we allowed Jake Gregus (a defensive end) to answer and his response of 350 pounds, resulted in the loudest applause of the day.

    After we shared with the students, we were able to spend time autographing posters for them and talking to some of the faculty. We were excited to learn about the football game being played on Ryan Field directly following our game against Eastern Illinois this upcoming Saturday between St. A's and Wilmette Catholic. The game was all part of Evanston Day, Saturday, Sept. 10, which is all part of the larger Paint Evanston Purple campaign that included a pep rally on Thursday and participation from numerous Evanston businesses.

    The support from the city of Evanston towards Northwestern Athletics is something that not only is appreciated, but something that is needed. We are so lucky to be in a city like Evanston where we are supported and being able to step out of the bubble of college football to share with grade school children about something bigger than athletics is something that we all were excited to be able to do. We realize the importance of our being actively involved in the community and that our participation could never come close the support we've felt from the community towards us. The 'Cats in the Classroom program, which is in conjunction with the Paint Evanston Purple campaign, is just one way that we are able to give back to the community that we have been blessed to receive so much from. We appreciate every opportunity to be a part of this amazing town and look forward to seeing everyone at Ryan Field.

    Go 'Cats and Go Redhawks!

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