Football players read to students

The message was clear.

Academics are important.

Three University of Illinois football players, lineman Nate Echard, wide receiver Mikey Dudek and  offensive guard Howard Watkins, traveled to St. Joseph Grade School to read to students recently.

The event, organized by teacher Tonya Dunn, was a hit with students.

“This was amazing,” Dunn said. “These are superstars to them.”

Dunn said the students asked the football players what it takes to be a successful athlete.

Dunn said the student athletes told the children about the importance of academics.

“They told the children to stick in school and focus on your academics first in order to be a successful athlete,” Dunn said.

Dudek said the three athletes decided to visit the grade school after he met Dunn and told her he would come read to some of her students.

“It’s always good to give back to the community as much as we can and try to be a positive influence on the kids around here,” Dudek said.

Dudek said the kids had a positive reaction to the athletes.

“It has been fun,” he said. “It was nice meeting all the kids and having them ask us questions.”

Watkins said he also enjoyed the experience and it reminded him of a similar experience he had from his childhood.

“I am from Cincinatti and football players came and did the same thing,” he said. “I remember that.”

Watkins said he hopes the kids understand the importance of academics.

“I think it should push them to always put education first. Without education you will not get anywhere,” he said.

Echard said he also enjoyed the experience.

“I am always about giving back to the community,” he said. “I love being around little kids. I figured it would be nice to show up. I know how much it means to them.”

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