River Ridge Middle School’s colors are purple and silver, but you could not find anything but green and gold worn by the students and staff Tuesday as the school welcomed Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby, who congratulated the students on their work in the Play 60 program.
“What you did is awesome,” Crosby told the committee of students who have overseen the program with their advisor, physical education teacher Shane Sperle.
For the past two years, students and staff have been participating in the NFL program which promotes youth to be active and eat healthy on a daily basis. After the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, students kicked off by participating in the exercise portion of the program, competing against 10 other schools across the state to see which students could log the most hours in a month being active. The students logged an average of 186 minutes per day of exercise, doing such things like coming to the school at 7:35 a.m. to walk on the track before school and going to the gymnasium to play basketball instead of waiting in line for lunch. For their efforts, the school won a trip to Lambeau Field. Students from the health class won a trip to a game last fall for a video they made about being healthy.
This past year students participated in Fuel Up to Play 60, which involved making motivational videos to promote a healthier lifestyle. Picking up from where they left off, the school initiated Walk it Out Wednesdays, which was derived from their early morning walks from the program the year before, and made a video for Fuel Up to Play 60’s physical activity skit challenge. Not only was the school the state winner of the contest, River Ridge’s video won the national competition as well.
As part of the award, the school won an XBox Kinnect package, which Crosby delivered Tuesday.
The Packers kicker said that in his short time at the school, he could sense there was something special going on.
“I love your town,” Crosby told the students, noting he also came from a small town in Texas. “It’s so great to grow up in such an awesome place………you get so many opportunities, get to meet so many wonderful people, and the support you get, what I have seen just since I walked through these doors, I just want to say you are very lucky. I am proud of each and every one of you.”
Crosby said that learning the right eating and exercise habits early in life will help keep them fit as an adult. “It gets tougher growing up. I am not going to lie. You are making choices now that makes it a lot easier,” Crosby said. “It’s not easy to eat right We have nutritionists at the stadium telling us what to eat, and sometimes it is hard to do.”
Mason reflected on the Super Bowl season of 2010, how they started off slow, just made the playoffs, but finished strong. He said he saw parallels between that season and what the students did. “You have beaten out a lot of schools bigger than you. You did so because you came together, as a team, unified, stuck together, and everyone did what they thought was best, staying in shape and eating right. This is just the starting point, this is an amazing beginning.”
“The fact that you are from a small town yet win state awards, national awards, get your name out there, make sure people you know you care, that’s impressive.”
Crosby shared a number of things about himself during the hour visit. He told the students that in order to make sure he got enough fruit in his diet, he makes a smoothie before he heads off to work every day, smoothies with spinach. “I know it sounds gross, but if you put spinach in with fresh fruit, it may make the smoothie look a little weird but it tastes really good,” Mason said.
The students had a number of questions for the kicker of the game-winning extra point in Sunday’s contest with the New Orleans Saints, including his thoughts on the controversial call during the previous week’s contest against Seattle, the one where replacement referees called an apparent interception a touchdown for the Seahawks.
“Do you want the PC answer?” Crosby joked. “I feel like Aaron (Rodgers) felt, that it was not the right call. ….I had no doubts, when I saw the replay, when I talked to our guys that when he went under the hood he was going to reverse that call.” Crosby went on to say that the play has become a bit of a rallying call for the team. “We came back and won this week. Something like that, we keep going through the season, a game like that, a game like this past week, I am not going to lie, I am emotionally tired. Games like that are going to make us tougher. You have to take the high road.”
Students wanted to find out about whether Crosby had a nickname, “some coaches in college called me Thunderfoot,” who he likes playing against the most, “the Chicago Bears, especially when we beat them,” and what sport other than football he likes to play, “I thought about being a professional soccer player.” He also stated that Jordy Nelson is his favorite teammate, and their two sons are good friends.
After the question and answer period, Crosby followed the students out to Usgaard Field where they took pictures and started a brief chant of Go Pack Go.
But more than the visit of a member of the Packers, the students and instructor running the play 60 program at the school hope that the continued success of the Play 60 program pushes students to continue other efforts to remain healthy.
“I think this is great for the kids,” Sperle said of the success of the program. “They worked really hard. (Mason) got them fired up again for another year.
“We hope this inspires everyone,” said Hope Schier, who this past summer attended the national Play 60 Conference in Washington D.C. as Wisconsin’s student ambassador, beating out more than 100 other students to lead fitness programs. Schier said that she and her classmates are in their final year at the middle school, and hope the foundation of the Play 60 program leads to a lasting legacy of being healthy for the students. Earlier she had remarked how students attitudes have changed, looking to play outside instead of watch TV, and utilize the school’s salad bar.
“I never thought something this exciting would happen,” another member of the committee said of the visit.
That group said that they plan to add more things to the program this year.