“First off, it was a lot of fun,” Wilson said. “I think we came in and wrapped up the program the right way. We taught them a lot and they just did everything that we asked and I think they learned a lot. We came out and had a lot of fun and did some exercises with them. The big thing is that we just came out and showed a lot of support.”
Split up with their respective squad of middle school kids supporting them, Wilson's and Smith’s teams squared off in activities like a hula-hoop challenge, a jump-rope competition, a free-throw shoot-off, a relay race and a football throwing and catching relay. Much to Smith’s chagrin, Wilson’s team came out victorious, but the fifth-year man out of Missouri was still happy to be interacting with the children.
“It’s been very gratifying to be able to come back out,” Smith said. “We made a promise to the kids a couple of months ago that we would come back if they completed the challenge. They did, and we’re glad to be here today to participate with them and to inspire them to keep doing what they’ve done.”
Those students who filled out their Play 60 books by documenting all of their activity over the past month had a chance to exercise with the two professional athletes. Working in conjunction with the American Heart Association, the Jets have been a willing participant in AHA events.
“It really underscores what we do,” said AHA regional director Marci Robinson. “We work in the schools each and every day trying to exhibit and teach them heart-healthy habits, and exercise is one of the biggest ones. It really is a partnership that we love. It’s exciting, it’s a lot of fun and it really supports our mission, which is fighting heart disease and stroke.”
With childhood obesity and heart disease becoming such major health risks, a fit and active player like Smith understands how important it is for students to learn healthy habits early in their lives. The sometimes quarterback, sometimes wide receiver and kickoff-return ace had glowing praise for the Jets’ partner in the event.
“The American Heart Association does a great job of trying to find different programs and different methods to get the community inspired and get them to exercise,” Smith said. “This is just a major part of it. I think they do a great job and Play 60 is a great vehicle to get kids to be healthy in the future.”
Another way to reward building healthy habits was the chance for two Ridgedale students to lead the Jets out onto the field before the Green & White’s home Thanksgiving game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Trevor T. and Amanda B. were the two students randomly selected, and were all smiles when their names were announced.
“It’s going to be an exciting night for them,” Robinson said. “Last year was our first year doing this with the players at the tunnel and I would say that they were a little bit nervous and they were excited. Then all the sudden they heard this thunderous roar and behind them marched the team. So they’re going to be very excited. I think it’s something they’re going to remember forever.”