Pigskin Poets Delight Kids and Parents Alike

The USC football team gave back to the community today, as several of Steve Spurrier's class of 2008 joined with some of his class of 2007 to read to Columbia's youth. The event was held at the Richland County Public Library. This program, known as ‘Pigskin Poets,' allows Gamecock players to teach young children about the joys of reading.

Offensive lineman Ryan Broadhead stole the show with his rousing rendition of "Chitty, Chitty, BOOM, BOOM!"

Without any kids of my own, I am not up-to-date on the latest children's literature. I was waiting for "Where the Wild Things Are," or "The Five Chinese Brothers," but was greeted with stories I have never heard.

The children seemed to enjoy it, as did the players, and that's all that really matters.

QB Aramis Hillary was simply a joy to watch as he interacted with the children. His teammates Akeem Auguste and Mark Barnes were equally involved. Watching the children sit with their idols was very touching, and had me wondering where my own youth had gone. It would be nice to have so few worries in life where college football players can mean that much to you…wait a second, I've just defined our entire membership…you lucky sons-of-guns.

The festivities kicked off just shy of 11:00am this morning on the bottom floor of the RCPL. Cocky and four Gamecock cheerleaders fired up the crowd, while highlights from last season played on the projector screen over the stage.

The players then entered the room with the intentions of breaking through a makeshift banner which, of course, did not break. Rather, the players just dragged it across the floor in defiance of the unbreakable paper.

The cheerleaders then got the room chanting ‘GAME!' ‘COCKS!' with the children shouting ‘Cocks' far louder than their opposition. It's good that they learn this early.

After it quieted down, the children joined the players on the floor and gathered all around them. These players must have looked like giants to them, as many of the little ones did not reach the knees of their heroes. That is when the interaction began, and they were able to have some fun together.

The emcee of the event was very energetic and led the crowd in a game of Simon Says, with most of the adults unable to follow simple instructions. "Excuse me, ma'am…you only complete the action if it is preceded by ‘Simon Says.'"

The players in attendance included:

Aramis Hillary

Ryan Broadhead

Mark Barnes

Ryan Doerr

Quintin Richardson

D.L. Moore

Eric Baker

Akeem Auguste

Reid McCollum

T.J. Johnson

Kyle Nunn

Kenny Miles

Jay Spearman

Mike Triglia

Shaq Wilson

Reid McCollum read a story with one of the cheerleaders that I just didn't understand. It was written like a conversation between two utes…I mean youths, and probably only had three verbs in the entire story. I like verbs. I feel they are a writer's friend. I guess I will not be making the leap to Children's Literature any time soon.

Aramis Hillary, TJ Johnson, and Ryan Doerr read the final story together. Verbs were used. I preferred their story.

With that, the library staff awarded medals to the players, which was not an NCAA violation, and the players began signing autographs. The media was also able to meet with the players, and I was so impressed with how many of the players' primary focus was on the kids. They got to us when they could and, quite honestly, I did not mind waiting.

I wrote this piece in a very light-hearted manner because it was a light-hearted event. It was children enjoying attention from their favorite team's players. It was nice. It deserved coverage. So often in the media we have to report negative stories. It isn't fun, but it is our job. However, stories like today's ‘Pigskin Poets' demonstrates what most of the athletes in college sports are all about. They are good people with good hearts. They care.

It was refreshing to see these players making the children feel important and, in turn, learn how to feel better about themselves. These were 18 and 19 year old kids placed on a pedestal in front of countless small children. They handled it well. They are giving back before they even see the field. Here are some words of advice: if you ever think to question the character of the entire South Carolina team based on the actions of a few, remember days like today.

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