Rotolo's Literacy Visits
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, students in the New Orleans area were greeted with a special surprise – a visit from New Orleans Saints players and a pizza party courtesy of Rotolo's Pizzeria.
This year, though Rotolo's Literacy Visits, the Louisiana-born company is incentivizing local students. Students who read three books receive a free Rotolo's kids' meal and drawstring backpack courtesy of Rotolo's.
At the first Rotolo's Literacy Visit, third, fourth and fifth-grade students at St. Rita Elementary School in Harahan spent time with Saints defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks.
Jordan spent time talking about some of his favorite books growing up, including the Goosebumps series, as well as telling the students that reading will be a big part of their future, no matter what career path they choose. The kids were attentive during the players' message, but showed their appreciation for their hometown team during the assembly.
"How can you not feed off of that energy? It's that New Orleans love that they show us Saints players," Jordan said. "I love being out here and talking to them. I hope they can take something away from hearing our stories and how reading and school impacted our future."
Hicks, who added in a geography lesson as he talked about playing college football in Canada, enjoyed giving students an experience that he hopes encourages them to be successful in the future.
"The kids are so excited. It makes you smile to see them smile and having as much fun as they're having," he said. "When I was kid, I didn't get to meet any professional athletes. I met a professional football player when I was 17 – that was the first time. I think it gives them a chance to meet us and hopefully, we can provide them with inspiration to go after whatever goals they have."
In the second Rotolo's Literacy Visit of the day, Saints long snapper Justin Drescher visited St. Angela Merci Elementary School to spend time with third, fourth and fifth grade students.
Drescher entered the gymnasium to hear the group of cheering wide-eyed students. He told them about his background and experience as a student and how reading helped him reach his goals in life. Drescher used the example of studying his playbook to explain how reading is still important in his career.
"Pay attention in school, have fun and work your hardest and, in the future, you will do a lot of great things," Drescher told the students. "If you work hard, you're going to be an important part of your future team or at the company you work for. The key and the base of your success are to start reading and learning at an early age."
The students then had the opportunity to have a 15-minute Q&A session with Drescher. They asked a wide range of questions from, "What does it feel like to get tackled?" to "Is Drew Brees a great guy?" The tables were turned and the students were asked three questions that learned during the Q&A, if they were called on and answered correctly they received a yearbook autographed by the long snapper.
Academy Sports and Outdoors Sports Clinic with Robert Meachem
More than 30 young Saints fans had the opportunity to catch passes from Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem on Tuesday during Academy Sports and Outdoor's sports clinic at the Metairie location.
"It's been a great day at Academy and getting the kids outside and running around. I think it's important they're active," Meachem said. "In a time where kids have iPads and video games, it's important they get a chance to exercise every day. Kids aren't playing outside and it's important to make it a part of their daily routine so they live a healthier and more active life."
During the drills and skills clinic, boys and girls of all ages learned about the different techniques that Saints players practice every day. Members of the Saints Youth Programs Department were joined by Meachem as they taught the kids how to properly catch a football, run receiving routes and practice their footwork.
Following the clinic, the participants and their families got a chance to talk with Meachem as he signed autographs at Academy.
"I'm happy to be in New Orleans," Meachem said. "The fans in New Orleans are the best – they come up to you, ask how you're doing and talk to you like they've known you for years. I love it."
Touchdown Club Dinner with Akiem Hicks
The Touchdown Club of New Orleans hosted Saints defensive end Akiem Hicks on Tuesday night. Hicks was joined by club members at Impastato's in Metairie, La. for an evening of delicious food and Saints football conversation.
The Touchdown Club hosts a player for dinner each Tuesday prior to a Saints home contest and has done so since 1968, the year following the founding of the team. The group is one of the most dedicated fan clubs in the NFL.
Hicks talked about how excited he was to be a part of another event with the Touchdown Club. After being drafted by the Saints, Hicks and his fellow rookies attended the annual Touchdown Club crawfish boil which Hicks recalled as a fond memory. Saints players also attended the recent Meet the Team luncheon with the Touchdown Club, at which they had the opportunity to meet members of the organization and spend time with some of the team's most passionate fans.
"As an organization, you are the best fans an NFL team could ask for and we want to thank you for your undying support," Hicks said. "I'm proud to spent time with the Touchdown Club and the best group of fans in the league. On my first play ever in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, I remember not being able to hear a thing because the fans were so loud. I'm not even sure I executed my assignment correctly, but I knew then just how passionate Saints fans are about their team."
The Touchdown Club, a non-profit organization, aims "to be the best fan club and social organization that promotes and creates spirit and enthusiasm among friends, family, and the community connected to the New Orleans Saints."
Hicks addressed the packed dining room and spoke about his experiences and path to the NFL before answering questions from members. After speaking, he posed for photographs, signed autographs and mingled with members of the club.
For more information on the Touchdown Club of New Orleans, visit www.tdcno.com.