Pleasant Knoll Elementary School students got a sneak peek into what it’s like to play for the NFL on Wednesday when the Carolina Panthers and NFL Play 60 transformed Bob Jones Stadium into a football combine.
Pleasant Knoll was the runner up for this year’s Harris Teeter Champions of Character grant, which earned the school $2,500 and an NFL Play 60 field day for second- through fifth-graders, courtesy of the Carolina Panthers, Principal Grey Young said.
“It’s an awesome day,” Young said, as his students ran over ladders and bags, threw and caught footballs and stretched all around him – many decked out in Panthers gear.
Fort Mill High School allowed the Pleasant Knoll students to have their field day on the turf field at the stadium, so there was plenty of room for running.
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The students were delighted by all of the different football activities and the high-energy music playing across the field.
“It’s really great, because I’ve never been to a place like this,” said Cadence Capp, who couldn’t stop looking around at the large stadium, much bigger than Pleasant Knoll’s playground space. “I feel like I’m gonna run a whole mile to make a touchdown.”
The Panthers, NFL and Play 60 host these events to give back to the community that supports the team and to encourage kids to be active and play at least 60 minutes every day, said Panthers spokesman Matt Wilbur, who helped organize and run the field day.
Second-grade teacher Kristen Wigington appreciated the team’s wanting to participate in the community. Her students were excited for the field day and to show their Panthers pride.
“It’s so great to get the kids moving, and they’re so excited to be wearing all their Panthers gear and to be here,” Wigington said.
One student said being a Panthers fan was in his DNA.
“When I was born, my mom and dad really liked the Panthers, and so it was just my instinct to become one,” said Aaron Simpkins.
While Aaron and his classmates might not be NFL material yet, Young said he spotted a few who seemed to have real talent as they went through the drills. He joked that when they do become Panthers players, he hopes they remember their elementary school principal.
As for the $2,500, which will last a lot longer than the field day, Young said school officials hadn’t decided exactly how to spend it. He expects to spend the money on something that promotes physical education and character development.
“It’s good to stress the importance of physical activity as well as academics,” he said.