Sep 12, 2013, 4:39 PM PST
The San Francisco 49ers went back to school on Monday. This time they were the ones doing the teaching.
It’s not often that a student athlete gets to see all of their goals embodied. On Monday, members of the Santa Clara High School junior varsity football team were given that opportunity.
49ers rookies and members of the team’s community relations department surprised the freshmen football players with a special visit. The students thought they were walking into a team meeting until the the pros strolled into the room and sat with them.
“I can’t say I had something this good,” 49ers rookie cornerback Darryl Morris said of his childhood. “To see some NFL Players? If I had something like that, I know it would have stuck with me for a long time.”
Each 49ers rookie captained a group of students in a goal-setting exercise, answered questions, discussed the importance of going to college, and then formed a team handshake. The members of the team with the best handshake received autographed footballs. None of the students left empty handed, though. They all left with signed 49ers programs and huge smiles.
“We’ll never forget this day,” Bruins freshman Ben Keith said. “It’s inspiring. It makes you believe in what you can do.”
Most students are told about the importance of higher education at home and in the classroom. The message can get stale when it comes from the same people all of the time. It’s suddenly more interesting when it comes out of the mouth of a professional football player.
“These are guys that they idolize and it’s fun that they can have that conversation,” 49ers communications manager Brandon Moreno said. “You can’t get into college, you can’t reach that next level without getting the grades for it. Our pro players can tell them that and they might actually listen this time.”
Positive role models can go a long way in underserved communities. The way the high school students responded to the visit also left an impression on the 49ers players that led the session.
“I’m pleased I came, and I think the group of rookies that came today are pleased with coming and having a positive effect on the youngsters here,” 49ers rookie defensive end Lawrence Okoye said. “Every day we need different types of motivation to keep us going. Hopefully these guys had fun today and that can motivate them to do big things.”
Okoye is a British discus thrower that was signed by the 49ers as an undrafted free agent. He has been openly referred to as a bad football player by his coach. He might have received the biggest kick out of the event.
“It’s pretty crazy that I was giving advice to them,” Okoye said. “It wouldn’t happen at the facility because everyone is giving advice to me.”
A lot of pro athletes don’t like to reflect on the past, but heading back to high school for the day really showed these 49ers rookies just how far they’ve come.
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