INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts take great pride in joining together as "ONE family" by participating and playing an active role in the community. Leading by example, select Indianapolis Colts players: LB Daniel Adongo, T Denzelle Good, G Ulrick John, RB Tyler Varga, WR Griff Whalen, WR Quan Bray and S Dewey McDonald visited five local Indianapolis schools to distribute over 1,300 books and read a story to students in grades K-3. The elementary schools that joined in this year's visits included: Maplewood Elementary School, Deer Run Elementary School, Westlake Elementary School, Central Elementary School and Fox Hill Elementary School.
At each school, players read a story and distributed a free book to participating children. Following the story, players answered questions from the eager students during a fun Q&A session. Right from the start, Daniel Adongo talked about the importance of reading with the 2nd and 3rd grade students of Maplewood Elementary and how reading helps him succeed and improve in his job for the Colts.
"It's very important that you learn how to read, because, later on in life, it helps you understand what your job is," said Adongo. "For me, it helps me understand what my coaches want me to do and also helps me explain and ask questions later, and that's how I become a better player—by understanding what the coaches want me to do like homework, go back and read my playbook, and then come and ask questions. It's really important. It's not just for in school and for tests, it's also for what I love to do, which is play football. In order to achieve that dream, I have to know how to read and have to know how to understand what I am reading and interpret that."
While classic children's stories such as Is Your Mama a Llama and Let's Do Nothing! *made for entertaining adventures, *Salt in His Shoes, a story about a young Michael Jordan and how his family teaches him that hard work and determination are much more important than size in becoming a champion, simply stole the show. It's a favorite of safety Dewey McDonald and a book he has been reading to kids since high school.
"From this we learned that hard work pays off, to be patient with your goals and to keep on going. Don't give up. Practice is better than being stronger or taller, or just being a physical specimen. You need to learn what you play," said McDonald.
After reading Cookie's Week by Cindy Ward, a story about a mischievous kitty who creates new messes over the house every day of the week, rookie running back Tyler Varga was sure to navigate the Westlake 2nd graders away from following in Cookie's paw prints.
"You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up," said Varga. "You just have to work hard, be focused on what you are doing, and most of all right now, listen to your teacher, be good and stay out of trouble."
Varga, a graduate of Yale University, shared the significance of a good education in life and the importance of reading outside of the classroom.
"Reading is really, really important," Varga stated simply. "Right now, you're in school and you're learning things, but you aren't always going to have a teacher to teach you things. If you are interested in learning something, a book is a great way to do it. If you learn how to read, you can teach yourself anything and you can be really smart. If you're smart, you're going to have a lot of opportunities in life, so it's really important to read and to practice reading to get good at it."
"One of the best ways to learn is to read," added Varga. "You can teach yourself anything if you're a good reader. That's why reading is such an important skill. It makes your options unlimited, which is an awesome, awesome thing. It's a critical part of being a well-rounded person."
While each different children's book had its own significant turns and twists, the moral of the Colts Day in Schools story remained the same.
"The moral of the story is that reading is a good thing and you should practice as much as you can and get as good as you can at it," shared Varga. "It's going to help you all throughout your life and this is a great time to start. When you're 4, 5, 6 years old, that when I really started reading, and it served me well. I think that school is one of the most important things for you guys. I know that you guys look at me and you see that I'm a football player, but I have an education as well and that's more important than anything."
"Reading is important, and knowing how to do it well is really important. It's fun too," said Adongo.
And as far as advice for the children looking to grow big and strong and play for the Indianapolis Colts? Daniel Adongo was not afraid to share his secrets to success.
"My mom said her prayers for me and I ate my veggies, that's how I grew taller. Remember to read your books and enjoy reading because it is really important. Believe in your dreams and your growth and never stop doing what it takes to get there."
The Colts would like to thank Vincennes University for their partnership. Also, the Colts would like to thank the participating schools for the opportunity to share the joy of reading with their students.