Baltimore Ravens player Torrey Smith couldn't stop smiling when he entered Linton Springs Elementary School's gymnasium on Tuesday, Oct. 2.
Greeted with thundering cheers from a sea of purple, the wide receiver was there to kick off the school's Project ACES (Active Children Excel in School) initiative — a program partnered with the NFL's Play 60 Challenge — to fight childhood obesity with 60 minutes of daily exercise and healthy eating.
"All that purple is nice," Smith said, greeting the crowd.
Smith spoke briefly to the students about the importance of exercise and healthy food, telling them that his favorite part of dinner was vegetables. When the crowd erupted with cheers, Smith shook his head laughing.
"I know you're all clapping, but you don't all like vegetables," Smith joked. "You don't have to lie to me. Just take care of yourself and eat right."
Christina Haspert, 10, a fifth-grader, enjoyed every minute of the rally ... though she admitted Smith was right.
"It has to be broccoli with cheese," Haspert said of eating vegetables.
But the rally, she said, was "cool because we got a NFL player to come here and talk to us about how to stay active."
Members of each grade asked Smith questions, then students competed in a relay race, with Smith and Poe, the Ravens' mascot, leading the way. When the race looked like it was going to end in a tie, Smith picked up his teammate and ran with him to the finish line, much to the crowd's delight.
"He is such a great role model for kids," said Joan Spindler, instructional assistant at Linton, of Smith. "He is very gracious and humble. He does a great job with the kids."
Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie expressed thanks to the NFL, Smith and Play 60 for the rally, and for supporting the ACES program, which he said reaches 26 elementary schools — more than 12,000 students — in Carroll.
"It has really taken off," Guthrie said of ACES, which began in 1996. "It is a fun incentive program."
Students who complete 60 minutes of activity each day for two weeks will be eligible for prizes, from water bottles and foam footballs to a grand prize: tickets to the Ravens vs. Steelers game in December.
On Tuesday morning, for the students at Linton, Torrey Smith was the best prize.
"It was amazing," said Matthew Williams, 9, a fourth-grader, of the rally. "I got to see Torrey Smith ... and Poe!"Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun