FOOTBALL: To motivate, to educate, Panthers go back to their old school

FOOTBALL: To motivate, to educate, Panthers go back to their old school

reporter photo

MERIDEN — Four players from the Platt football team along with the Panthers’ coaching staff put a smile on the faces of Hanover Elementary School students on Tuesday afternoon.

The Platt representatives — Jake Baker, Roberto Salas, Daniel Hand and Jaylen John — spoke with Hanover’s fourth and fifth graders for 45 minutes in the school’s cafeteria. 

There was some Q & A. The players each took a turn at the microphone, asking questions. Students would raise their hands and come up to give an answer.

There was some Show & Tell. The players displayed trophies earned last fall, including the 2018 Stoddard Bowl.

The visit concluded with an autograph session. Each student received a copy of the Platt logo to get signed by Baker, Salas, Hand and John.

With Tuesday’s trip to Hanover, the Panthers have now visited seven of Meriden’s elementary schools. They plan on visiting Lincoln Middle School next month to conclude the tour.

“Some of the kids are challenged at school or struggle to be motivated, so this is an inspiring story for them to hear from older kids that education is cool,” Hanover assistant principal Gail Kelly said during Tuesday’s visit. “They look up to them.

“Sometimes the players come see them at lunch or recess and they really look forward to seeing them and visiting with them and talking football with them. It’s really exciting for the students.”

Baker, John and Salas were all Hanover students not too long ago. They each got a big thrill signing autographs.

“It’s definitely an honor to be here today,” John said. “The message we wanted to get across to the kids was to do a sport.”

John has been on three legs of the elementary school tour. He said he’s gotten better at signing autographs.

Salas has also enjoyed the experience of meeting with younger students.

“It’s great to come back to the school and teach them about life skills and, hopefully, one day they will go to Platt,” Salas said. “I saw some of my old teachers for the first time in four years. The kids had smiles on their faces and were thankful for us being here, and it was a great feeling.”

The idea for the Meriden school tour started with Platt guidance councilor and assistant football coach Brian Frederick.

“We were looking for a way to reach out to the elementary school kids and for the community,” Frederick said. “We want to send a positive message to the kids. We want the high school kids to be positive role models for the elementary school kids. We want them to look up to them instead of professional athletes or the music artists they see on TV.

“We are trying to hit closer to home and get the kids excited to come up to high school one day and give them something to look forward to.”

Frederick and Platt head coach Jason Bruenn also spoke at Tuesday’s event. Frederick said the football players learned some valuable life skills as well.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to speak in front of a large group of people,” Frederick said. “Sooner, rather than later, they are going to be asked to speak in a large group in class or college. It’s beneficial to both the high school kids and the elementary kids. It’s a win-win on both ends. Some of the schools have asked us to come back in the spring, so there may be more to come.”

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