Derrick Brooks leads Angela Hamilton's school through the Pledge of Allegiance
Most people enter a raffle with the hopes of winning a t-shirt or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.
Not Angela Hamilton.
Angela, a nine-year-old fourth grader at Maniscalco Elementary, entered her name in a contest at a local JC Penney department store and promptly won an NFL linebacker. Specifically, the raffle gave entrants a chance to win a school visit from Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, and Angela's name was pulled, making winners of all the students at Maniscalco.
The raffle was part of the National Football League's "Take a Player to School" sweepstakes. The league-wide program was developed as a way for players in each of the 32 NFL cities to encourage children to stay in school and become involved in after-school programs.
Angela welcomed Brooks to her school in Lutz bright and early on the morning of October 26. The two then went to the principal's office where Brooks signed footballs for the school. Angela and Brooks appeared together on MMTV – Maniscalco Mustang Television – the school's morning news channel, where they led the entire school in the pledge of allegiance.
"I think it's really exciting," Angela said of her special guest.
When asked if she got any sleep the night before, Angela replied, "Actually, I did, and I had a very good dream about this. I will remember this forever."
Angela's fourth-grade class received a special visit from Brooks before moving to the auditorium, where the students in her grade listened attentively to a very important message. Brooks stressed the importance of adhering to the four Rs: Respect others, Respect yourself, Respect your school and Respect your teachers. He also encouraged the students to take advantage of the educational opportunities provided to them so that they may be successful in life.
Brooks fielded questions from the children after his speech. He told the children about how he became a professional football player and what he would like to do if he wasn't playing football. Each fourth-grade class also got to take a picture with Brooks, photos that will be proudly displayed in their classrooms for years to come.
There was even time for Brooks to toss the football around with members of Angela's class, which delighted the kids. And the teachers at Maniscalco seemed to enjoy the visit as much as the students.
Brooks has made a habit of returning to the classroom. After graduating from Florida State with a bachelor's degree in business communications, Brooks returned to the university to obtain a master's degree in 1999.
"Not knowing when I'm going to take my last snap on the field, I have to prepare myself for that day, and getting my master's was part of that process," said Brooks. "Like I told these kids, I enjoy going to school. I enjoy education. It's a challenge to learn, and to do it under the circumstances, playing football, drives the point home that we do take education very seriously."
The students of Maniscalco Elementary were able to learn some valuable lessons from Brooks during his visit, and in turn the Buc linebacker was given a very rewarding experience.
"It is an honor to come out and share my message with the kids of Hillsborough County," said Brooks.