WEST ORANGE, NJ – Former Atlanta Falcons’ linebacker and defensive end turned author, Tim Green and Giants’ running back Rashad Jennings, paid a visit to Gregory Elementary School on Sept. 29 to promote Green’s latest book, "Kid Owner" and the“Play 60/Read 20” initiative.
Marisela Santiago of Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, who helped to arrange last year’s visit from Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore, once again worked with Principal Michelle Thompson to arrange the visit.
In partnership with the NFL’s “Play 60” exercise campaign to combat childhood obesity, Green added the “Read 20” component to address the importance of reading and to underscore his motto, “Reading is weightlifting for your brain.”
“The weightlifting makes you stronger, and the reading makes you a better person— smarter and kinder,” said Green.
The Gregory student body and staff turned out to welcome Green and Jennings, who arrived amidst cheers and balloons to lead fifth grade students in football drills on the Gregory field. They were assisted by teachers, parents, and West Orange High School football players and coaches.
In addition to members of the high school football team, Superintendent Jeff Rutzky, Assistant Superintendent Donna Rando, WOHS Principal Hayden Moore, Athletic Director Ron Bligh, Supervisor of Health and Physical Education Kevin Alvine, and WOHS Head Football Coach Jim Matsakis were on hand to welcome Green and Jennings.
Six stations were set up and students moved to a new station every five minutes. Once the drills were completed, students headed to the gym to hear from Green and Jennings, who spoke about their lives and encouraged students to pursue their dreams.
“Education, kindness and love are more important than football,” said Green, who travels nationally to meet with students. “My challenge to you is to do or say something kind to someone you don’t know and who is different from you.”
Jennings, who chose to accompany Green to Gregory on his day off, shared the story of his high school years.
“I was short, chubby, had glasses, asthma and a reading comprehension deficit,” he said. “I had a .6 GPA and I thought, ‘I’m smarter than school.”
In school, as a fifth string running back, Jennings said he never played, until the last game of his junior year season when the first, second, third and fourth string running backs were all injured. Miraculously, Jennings scored four touchdowns that night, drawing the attention of a scout. When the scout asked Jennings what his grades were like, Jennings said he realized something had to change.
“That scout changed my life,” Jennings said, “and I repeated junior year, got to know my teachers and started to realize how important reading was.”
Jennings went on to play with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, and the New York Giants.
“Reading made me a successful football player,” said Jennings. “I took ownership of my life. Whatever you want to do in life you can succeed.”
Green read a chapter from his newest book for young people, “Kid Owner,” about a young boy that finds out the recently deceased owner of the Dallas Cowboys was his father and inherits the team.
His first book for young people, “Football Genius,” landed on the New York Times Bestseller List.
The audience seemed to hang on every word spoken by Green and Jennings, and the gym erupted into cheers as Jennings presented each student with a signed copy of “Kid Owner.”
To see more photos from the event, click HERE. All photos taken by Cynthia Cumming