S Will Allen tried to spread the message of the importance of physical activity to all the students at Turkey Creek Middle School
A roar rose out of the assemblage of seventh- and eight-graders in the Turkey Creek Middle School gym Tuesday afternoon as Jerramy Stevens and Will Allen appeared.
One can only imagine that the heart rates of the youngsters rose in conjunction with their voices.
A quickened pulse would have been fitting, considering the two players were in attendance as part of the "What Moves U" program, designed by the NFL and the American Heart Association to promote physical fitness and healthy living to young students nationwide.
The two members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers paid a special visit to the school, located in Plant City, as the fourth of six stops on the team's tour of local schools between October and February.
Ten students will be chosen after the "What Moves U" rallies are completed to compete in a final challenge at One Buccaneer Place in March, with the schools of the top three competitors winning physical fitness equipment valued at $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.
Stevens and Allen began the event by taking turns speaking to the children about their own experiences growing up and staying active, stressing the values of hard work and exercise. The two Bucs then led opposing teams of students in a trivia game with questions centered on nutrition.
Stevens' team jumped out to an early lead but Allen's crew nailed a triple-or-nothing final question to win the game. With their classmates looking on from the bleachers, all of the participating students received signed mini-helmets, and Stevens and Allen presented the entire school with a signed football to put on display.
The children then participated in a question-and-answer session with the players, asking them everything from how much exercise they get to how fast they can run.
For the two Bucs in attendance, it was a chance to have some fun with the kids, but also a way to get across an important message. As professional football players whose livelihoods revolve around staying in top physical condition, it was a subject Stevens and Allen were all too eager to preach.
"I had a great time here at Turkey Creek," Stevens said. "It was a good little competition and it's good to see the kids involved. Hopefully they took something home from it, to get outside and exercise a little bit. I see a lot of kids that don't do much. I know with video games getting so big, kids just don't move. They sit in the house and play the games all day. I don't think they're living as rich a life as they could if they get out and do something and get involved, whether it's athletics or just moving around."
Added Allen: "I think [the What Moves U program] is a good idea, just to create awareness and plant a seed in the kids' minds. Now it's up to them to step out and try to actually move. It's important because there's a lot of health problems out there, and if you're not active while you're young and as you're growing up, those health problems can become prevalent in your life. So the more and more you work out, the more and more you eat healthy, the better off you'll be."
Stevens, a physical specimen standing at 6-7, couldn't have been a better example of how staying active can help lead to a healthy adult life and the realization of childhood dreams. As he reflected on his days running around as a youngster, he felt compelled to urge the kids to do the same.
"Gym class was like another recess for me, just a chance to go out there and mess around and play," Stevens said. "I've always been into sports since I can remember, but some kids don't like athletics though. I understand that, but still, for your own health you need to get out there and do something."