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Houston Texans

Rookies, kids go shopping for the holidays


Rookie guard Kasey Studdard leads his two assigned children through the aisles at Academy.

With Christmas right around the corner, the Texans rookie class decked the halls of a local Academy Sports & Outdoors for some holiday shopping with local children at the annual "Shop with a Texan" event.

The entire rookie class, and even rookie Texans Cheerleader Samantha O, took part in the event.

"This is our sixth annual Shop with a Texan, and it's an opportunity for the players to connect with many of the young fans," said Regina Woolfolk, director of community relations, overseeing the final event of her six-year career with the Texans. "A lot of the kids come from local charitable groups, and the players are like their Santa's helpers.

"This is what makes it special for the holidays, to see the gleam in their eyes as they go down the aisle and look at shiny new skates and new bikes."

Academy Sports gave each child, selected from a local Houston charitable organization, a $100 gift card to purchase holiday presents. Each rookie took two or three children around the store with shopping carts, sharing laughs and advice on what might make the best gift.

"We're out here letting the kids get a bunch of toys and helping them out and making their Christmas and their holidays better," guard Kasey Studdard said. "I love doing this. It's so much fun, seeing the kids' faces light up when they get all these new toys and things like that and stuff they want."

There were touching sights, such as rookie defensive tackle Amobi Okoye diligently tying shoes for a little boy he was with to make sure they were the right fit.

Many of the players, including Okoye, had a hard time telling the children they were paired with that they only had a set amount of money to spend.

"I have a little sister, she's seven, and so I'm kind of used to (spoiling kids)," he said. "So I try not to spoil them, but it's tough, man."

There were humorous sights, such as wide receiver Jacoby Jones hopping around on a tiny pink bike that a seven-year-old girl he was shopping with had picked out.

"We're having fun with these kids on a little shopping spree," Jones said. "They've got a little money they can spend, so we're going to have some fun with it, too."

And there were unusual sights, such as a husky 6-2, 303-pound offensive lineman standing next to a shopping cart full of pink toys. That would be Studdard, with 10-year-old Maria.

"I just went to the pink sections and she just picked out what she wanted," Studdard said unabashedly. "I just had to find the color pink and there we go, look at all we've got.

"She got a pillow, she got a little thing for her bed where she can read a book or watch TV and lay on and she got a pink robe that's softer than any blankets I have."

Studdard left the event quite impressed with the shopping ability of his young counterparts.

"Little Maria over here, she loves pink, and she knows how to shop, now," Studdard said. "She got like 30 things, and she still had money left."

Other rookies were also pleasantly surprised by the shopping bravado of their young friends.

"We got two skateboards for each person," Okoye said. "They each got one of everything, pretty much. The skateboards, which I really like, I'm thinking about getting one, too. Safety first, so they've got to get helmets, and we got these Heelys, these are the newest and hottest thing on the market, with the skateboards."

The rookies shared a uniform appreciation of the privilege of being NFL players in the position to help brighten the holidays for these local children.

"It means a lot because for me, I feel like there's more of a plan and purpose for my life than just to play football," Okoye said. "Every chance I get, I try to put that to use and do everything extraordinary that I can do."

Jones agreed.

"When you were younger at one time, you wanted help, too, so being able to give a lending hand means a lot," Jones said.

And Woolfolk, leaving the Texans after six seasons with the team, said that this is exactly the type of event that made her job worthwhile.

"We have a great partner in Academy because they always open up their doors to the store and make this a really festive atmosphere for the kids," she said. "And I wanted to go out on the top just like this. What a better way to do it than around the holidays and making sure that these kids get things that they deserve."

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