HOUSTON, Texas -- From the moment Northwestern arrived in Texas on Monday evening, the people of the city of Houston have worked hard to provide an unforgettable bowl experience for the Wildcats. On Thursday, 10 NU players took time out of their busy bowl game preparations to return the favor.
Along with Willie the Wildcat and the WildPride Spirit Squad, the 'Cats made the short trip from their hotel to the DePelchin Children's Center to spend time with the youngsters affiliated with the center. DePelchin is committed to meeting the needs of Houston's children as the largest, most comprehensive provider of mental health, prevention and early intervention and foster care and adoption services.
The trip was not out of the ordinary for the NU football family; the Wildcats regularly venture to Chicagoland area children's hospitals every Friday before home games during the fall.
Three Houston natives on the Wildcats roster took advantage of the opportunity to connect with youngsters from their hometown: sophomore defensive tackle Will Hampton, sophomore running back/kick returner Venric Mark and freshman wideout Christian Jones.
"We have just as much fun as the kids do," Hampton said. "It's good to give back to the community, and me personally being from Houston, I feel like it's really important to give back. It's important for them to see that if you keep working hard, you can get to college."
Joining the Houstonians were seniors Drake Dunsmore, Brian Peters, Jacob Schmidt and Jeremy Ebert along with junior Demetrius Fields and sophomores Will Studlien and Tyler Scott. All 10 Wildcats autographed T-shirts, posed for photos and handed out plenty of purple paraphernalia. Dunsmore, Fields and Mark looked particularly comfortable holding and snapping photos with babies and toddlers, a skill that would translate into success should any of them decide to run for public office in life after football.
"We don't get a lot of interaction with kids but when we do we enjoy it," Schmidt said. "To brighten their day by signing their shirt, giving them a water bottle and maybe changing a life, it's a lot of fun."
For more information on the DePelchin Children's Center, visit their website at DePelchin.org.