ELDERSBURG - Children at Linton Springs Elementary School are often taught to eat healthy foods, stay physically active and drink lots of water. But it's not every day they hear that message from Ravens Wide Receiver Torrey Smith.
"Eat right and have fun," Smith said at a school assembly Tuesday. "And listen to your teacher."
Carroll County Public Schools and The Baltimore Ravens kicked off the National Football League Play 60 Challenge and Project Active Children Excel in School, or ACES, Tuesday morning at Linton Springs Elementary. The programs promote healthy and active lifestyles among youths.
Formed in 1996, Project ACES is a two-week event that occurs every fall in Carroll County elementary schools. The NFL Play 60 campaign is a nationwide initiative urging students to participate in active play 60 minutes every day.
In previous years, several other Ravens players have visited area schools for the Play 60 challenge, including defensive end Haloti Ngata, punter Sam Koch, running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Tandon Doss.
Smith told students that he's lucky to get to play football as his job, so it's important for him to do whatever he can to make sure he stays hydrated. He drinks lots of Gatorade before games, but then evens it out by drinking a lot of water, also.
"I have to drink a lot of water before and after a game or else I cramp up," he said.
A student from each grade asked him a question. The inquiries were mostly about what kind of exercises he enjoys doing. Smith replied that he likes to play football, basketball and run around. He also makes sure to jog and stretch before a game.
Smith told the audience he improves his muscles by lifting weights and eating healthy foods, such as fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables.
After Smith's talk, he and the Ravens mascot, Poe, were captains of a student relay race. The two showed the students what to do and then led the children through the jump rope, agility ladder and jumping jacks course.
It was a close race, won narrowly by Smith's team when he picked up the last racer and sprinted with him to the finish line.
Fourth-grader Ella Hollinger, who was on Smith's team, said she was happily surprised she was chosen to compete. She is a fan of the Ravens and enjoyed meeting Smith and Poe.
"I like running so it was fun," she said.
Third-grader Tyler Fuvello, who was wearing his Ravens jersey Tuesday, said he loved the surprise assembly and will take Smith's message to heart.
"He said to eat healthy, drink water and be active," he said. "We do those things a lot."
Linton Springs Elementary was chosen as the kick-off location this school year because it always has a high staff and student participation in Project ACES, according to the county's Director of Health and Physical Education Linda Kephart.
The school system didn't know which Ravens player would arrive for the assembly until Monday night.
"We were so proud to have Torrey Smith," she said. "His message to the students was supportive to Project ACES."
Project ACES and NFL Play 60 in elementary schools countywide is being funded by The Baltimore Ravens this school year, Kephart said.
Linton Springs Physical Education teacher Angie Zepp said students who set a good example for their peers and were good sports during physical education classes were chosen to either ask Smith a question or participate in the relay race.
"This is something that they will remember for the rest of their lives," she said.
In addition to the NFL Play 60 prizes possible for students who participate in Project ACES, the school community gives away hundreds of prizes for student and family participation.
Zepp hopes the assembly will further encourage students to make good choices and live healthy lifestyles.
"We're very proud of our students here and they deserve this," Zepp said.