Dallas Cowboys teach McNutt Elementary students good exercise and nutrition habits

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McNutt Elementary third-grader Ja’Kobi J. may be changing his football allegiances.

Ja’Kobi came to school Tuesday a Green Bay Packers fan. That was before 15 rookies from the Dallas Cowboys showed up for the NFL PLAY 60/READ 20 clinic at the school.

Ja’Kobi – like the rest of the third graders who went through football drills before listening to Cowboys radio personality Kristi Scales read an excerpt from a book – came away impressed.

“I’m really happy and excited,” Ja’Kobi said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for years. It was fun to come out here and see these guys and get to exercise with them.”

While the students may have been starry-eyed, the message from the event was clear. The PLAY 60 initiative is designed to inspire kids to play well and eat better. The students got to work with the rookies on snapping a football, catching a football and dropping back like they were going to throw a pass.

As important as that was, the second half of the event may make more of an impact. After Scales read an excerpt from “Go Long,” a book written by former NFL players Ronde and Tiki Barber, the McNutt students were each given a copy of the book courtesy of the Essilor Vision Foundation.

All first, third and fifth graders at McNutt went through vision screenings Tuesday courtesy of Essilor and some of the third graders were presented with new glasses from the Cowboys players on hand, including second-round pick Trysten Hill.

Hill told the students he got his first pair of glasses when he was 8-years old and they made a big difference for him because he was able to see the guys he was trying to tackle.

As excited as the students were to see the Cowboys, it was also a rewarding event for the players.

“It shows people that we’re more than football players,” Cowboys running back Tony Pollard said. “Oftentimes you don’t see us because we have helmets on. You get to put a face with the name. This is a great idea because, with so many video games and technology, this program gets them out of the house so they can interact with each other.”

That’s music to the ears of McNutt physical education teacher Scott Schlesinger. He can tell his students how important exercise is all he wants. Hearing it from an NFL player has a bigger impact.

“Any time you can get Cowboys players out here, that makes a difference,” Schlesinger said. “We had the kids do some football skills to get ready. It’s really important. For me, getting students out playing is my passion. I try to get them to do something after school. Hearing it from them is a whole different ballgame. They’ll want to be like that when they get older.”