Ravens players, cheerleaders encourage students to get active

Ravens players, cheerleaders encourage students to get active
Piney Ridge Elementary student Brody Clise cheers on the Ravens during a Project Aces program , in Eldersburg, on Monday. (KEN KOONSSTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

ELDERSBURG — Baltimore Ravens teammates Morgan Cox and Gino Gradkowski took their places at the head of opposing teams Monday afternoon.

At "go," Cox and Gradkowski led dueling teams of students and Ravens cheerleaders at Piney Ridge Elementary School through a tag team race — five jumping jacks, ladder agility drills and five rope jumps — to kick-off the school district-wide annual Project ACES program. ACES is short for Active Children Excel in School.


Piney Ridge students, dressed in Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Torrey Smith and Joe Flacco jerseys, yelled and screamed for the two teams, which battled neck-and-neck, as Ravens mascot Poe hyped the crowd.

But, with mere seconds to spare, Ravens cheerleader Amanda Ross led Gradkowski's team to victory.

Carroll County Public School's Project ACES program has partnered with the national NFL Play 60 campaign, to promote healthy living and active lifestyles for students.

For two weeks, Carroll elementary school students are challenged to engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, said Linda Kephart, CCPS supervisor of health and physical education.

Each student was given a purple journal to track progress, she said.

Three students who successfully complete the challenge will be given Ravens home game tickets to the San Diego Chargers game. Five additional students will be chosen to attend a Play 60 luncheon next spring alongside Ravens players.

Piney Ridge students will have a little help with their logs, Principal Craig Dunkleberger said. Students can use their 30-minute recess and weekly physical education class to count toward their 60 minutes per day of exercise, he said.

Dunkleberger said he believes the 600 students at Piney Ridge will receive some added motivation to complete the challenge after having members of the Ravens show up at their school.

"We were really excited to be chosen for this," Dunkleberger said. "Having the players here will help."

The staff and administration is also encouraged to participate in the Project ACES challenge. Dunkleberger said he will be jogging in his neighborhood and walking to complete his 60 minutes per day.

The Ravens players log at least triple that amount of exercise per day.

Cox, 28, a long snapper, said the team practices two and a half hours per day plus he has an additional daily workout.

"But the amount of energy we exert on game days is more than any other days," Cox said. "It's important we keep ourselves active."

Ross, from Columbia, and Danielle Schwab, of Eldersburg, who cheered during the assembly, said they also practice two and a half hours daily.


Gradkowski, who plays center, said maintaining healthy bodies will help students live longer and keep their minds sharper, so they perform better in school.

Cox said he also encourages activity to help students with social skills.

"I spent a lot of time outside growing up," said Cox, who is from Memphis, Tenn. "By playing with other kids you develop relationships, connect with people and develop socially."

As technology becomes an increasing part of students' lives, Gradkowski said it is important to encourage kids to stay active.

To get active, Cox suggested students to get outside and get fresh air through a game of tag, kick ball, wall ball or any other activity they are interested in.

Gradkowski, who grew up in Pittsburgh, encouraged students to not get discouraged if they lose when they're playing games.

"No one likes to lose, but it is a part of something you deal with in life and in sports," Gradkowski said.

Reach staff writer Krishana Davis at 410-857-7862 or