CAMDEN, NJ — Trying to rally the crowd, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor let out a loud call of "how're you doing?"
Agholor repeated the message when he could feel the energy level wasn't at its highest.
But this crowd was a bit different from the ones he's used to hyping up on Sundays.
Agholor was at H.B. Wilson Elementary on Friday afternoon to honor 130 students from the Camden City School District who excelled in the year-long Building Reading Muscles challenge. The ceremony for the program he's partnered on was held in recognition of the top 10 student readers in kindergarten through 8th grade from each of 13 city schools.
In addition to certificates and a photo with Agholor, the district's five highest achievers received a signed football from the Eagles fifth-year player.
"Thank you guys for being you, for accomplishing some special things to put you in this position right here," Agholor said from a stage in the decorated school gymnasium.
A 2018 Super Bowl champion, he likened the hard work that goes into keeping with the reading program to that of winning the NFL's biggest game.
"It takes a lot of determination to continue to be consistent about reading," said the 26-year-old Agholor.
And he would know. Even during the busy season, Agholor makes it a point of emphasis to read at the start and end of the day. He said that he will set a timer to reach at least 30 minutes in the morning and another 30 at night.
Agholor, born in Nigeria and raised in the United States, acknowledged that a focus on education allowed for him to reach the successes in his life.
"The more you read, you'll see yourselves in truly special places down the line," he said.
The initiative at the Camden schools has been active for three years, according to Tonya Wilson, senior director for special content area support. Each of the classrooms use i-Ready, a computer program that provides assessments and instruction to help make strides in reading and mathematics.
"We challenged our students to be able to reach a certain level in passing grades, as well as their time on i-Ready and just to improve their reading," Wilson said.
Staff from the different schools are tasked with monitoring student results and giving progress updates each month. If the reading targets were met, the students would get gift cards for milkshakes, sandwiches, or full meals to PDQ, a Tampa-based restaurant chain with locations nationally.
This was the first year that the district partnered on the program with PDQ and Agholor, who maintained a relationship with the company after working there as a teen.
"We hope to continue this for the next year so that we can see more improvement across the board with our students," Wilson said.
Taking questions from students at the end of the event, Agholor was asked about his life, football career, and favorite books, of which he noted Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
Then, he was asked to offer some motivation for the young audience.
"Truly have dreams, stay away from people that are dream-killers, and continue to invest in your dreams," Agholor said. "Do something each day that's going to help you become whatever you want to be. Chase that every day and don't let anyone stop you from doing that."