Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans visited with a first-grade class at Don Jeter Elementary school on Tuesday.
DeMeco Ryans was the big man on campus on Tuesday – literally. The Texans' middle linebacker and 2006 NFL defensive rookie of the year paid a visit to Don Jeter Elementary School in nearby Manvel, Texas, as one of 10 Texans players participating in "Take a Texan to School Day."
Ryans spent nearly one hour with a class of 20 first-graders before handing out gift bags and signing personalized autographs for each of the children. The classroom was selected by the Texans because one of its students, six-year-old Gabrielle Griggs, had written an essay explaining that she loves the team because of how big of a Texans fan her father is.
"It's always fun to come out and visit with the kids, because it's so enjoyable," Ryans said. "They always have such a great time, and it's something for them to really look forward to and look up to as being a role model.
"I just want to continue to be that person that they look up to, and when they're watching the game on Sunday, they can be like, 'Hey, it's Number 59. He came to our school and we had a great time.'"
Ryans, who graduated as one of the most academically decorated student-athletes in University of Alabama history, spoke to the children about the value of education. He also harped on the importance of exercising and staying healthy, which prompted one of the students to ask Ryans to do 10 pushups on the spot.
The linebacker hesitated in surprise at the request before obliging it, but not before asking the young student to join him. Not one, but two of the boys in the class ended up doing so.
"I got a little workout today on my day off," Ryans said with a laugh. "I got some pushups in. But I had a great time."
Don Jeter principal Kelly Jackson was ecstatic to have a famous figure such as Ryans visit with the children and provide for them a positive example – even if their first-grade minds don't yet grasp who exactly the emerging NFL superstar is.
"They know he's somebody," Jackson said. "With all the adults that are standing in here (referring to the media in attendance), they know he's somebody. But they don't quite understand what a big deal it is."
A few years from now, when the children look back at their class photo with Ryans, they will surely comprehend the significance of his visit. For the time being, Ryans was elated to have the chance to impact the class in a positive way.
"We never had anyone come to our school," Ryans said of his childhood years in Alabama. "So for me, it's really special to be that person to come out to a school and talk to kids, because I never had that growing up."