By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 5, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 5, 2013) -- Summer is officially over now that Labor Day weekend has passed, and for many that only means one thing -- football season is here, and Fort Rucker Primary School welcomed the changing of the leaves and cooler weather with a Tailgate Day Aug. 30 during college football's opening weekend.
Tailgate Day was held Friday for kindergarten and first grade, and was the school's way to kick off football season with food, entertainment and guest speakers along with a few other special activities.
Jim Thompson, local former professional football player, was a special guest and spoke to first graders during the day, and the Daleville High School and Enterprise High School pep bands, along with cheerleaders, mascots and football players put on two pep rallies for the entire first grade and all of the school's kindergartners.
Lynn Irwin, a first grade teacher and organizer of the event, said that she hopes the message of the importance of teamwork, education and setting goals will sink in for the children.
"The older kids and community leaders can get this message across in a different way than we can in school sometimes," she said. "The message seems to be coming in crystal clear to many of them."
The high school students encouraged the children to work hard in school and about how important it is to be responsible. They also showed and told the children what kinds of things they can get involved in in high school if they make good grades.
Samantha Seibold, a Daleville cheerleader and older sister to Steven Landa, a first grader, said that she loved performing for the primary school because she volunteers at the school and it was just another way for her to give back. Seeing her little brother at school was exciting as well.
"I hope that I showed them that it is OK to get out of your shell and try new things," she said. "If they want to do something they should go for it. I used to be shy and I just wanted to tell them that they miss out on a lot of fun things if they are afraid to try."
Landa said that seeing his big sister cheer with her friends was his favorite part.
"I am happy she cheers, it makes me proud she is my sister," he said. "Maybe I will be a football player one day."
Thompson spoke to the children about perseverance through hard times, the importance of an education and friends, and what it means to strive for goals.
"Have as many friends as possible -- boys, girls, black, white, Hispanic, it doesn't matter because friends are the people that help you through hard times your entire life. They help you make good choices," he said.
After playing for Auburn University for four years (1984-1988), Thompson was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the National Football League and he told children about the experience.
"I hurt my shoulder, and I couldn't play professional football anymore and I got fired," he said with a smile to the children. "I then tried to get picked up by the San Francisco 49ers, but I couldn't pass a physical because of my shoulder, so I knew I had to get a real job. That is why it is important to get an education. One minute you are a national football player and the next you have to figure out how to sell insurance."
He encouraged all the children to get a high school education and to strive to go to college.
"School can be hard, and sometimes it's not going to be fun, but it is important, more important than anything else," he told them.
Thompson said that he wanted to teach the children that "Yes, it is exciting to see people on television who make lots of money and are local celebrities," but that those people are few and far in-between and that getting an education should be the most important thing in their young lives.
"I wanted to make an impression on them that it is important to listen to their teachers and their parents, and that they need to give them the respect they deserve," he said. "I enjoy talking to the small kids. I remember when I was their age people making an impression on me and this was just my way of giving back to the community that gave so much to me."