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As the Rockets get ready to face Male tonight, the day will start differently for a few players.
Junior running back Quinten Cottrell won't be focused on bursting through the Bulldogs' front seven. Junior quarterback Branden Cresap won't be fixated on picking apart the Male secondary, looking for receivers Matt Page and Tavis Elzy.
No, those students, along with a few others, will be busy with more important things this morning.
They'll be mixing, mingling and signing autographs for fans. Of course, those fans are about 4 feet tall.
Each week the players have been going to help out with reading in Andrea Cottrell's second-grade class, where these guys are more than just football players. Andrea Cottrell is Quinten’s mother.
The students ask questions about the games as they read the stories in The Sentinel-News.
"These kids absolutely love those boys," Andrea Cottrell said. "They come in and spend time with them, talk to them and read with them. It's been great."
Last Friday the players were asked questions about the Nelson County game.
"What was it like to throw the ball in mud?"
"Was it fun to play in the mud?"
"Will you show us some karate moves?"
OK, so they tend to get a little off topic, but it's all in good fun.
This will be week five of the players' Friday morning stopover. They started on Sept. 4, the same day the team picked up its first victory of the season, beating North Hardin.
"That night, after the game, they all looked at me and said. 'We'll see you next week,’" Andrea Cottrell said.
So each week those guys get up a little earlier, leave the house a little earlier and spread some joy.
Because of Shelby County's staggered school starting times, the players can spend 15 or 20 minutes in the class just hanging out.
Jumping on the opportunity for a learning experience, Andrea Cottrell turns the visit into a lesson. The students get to write about the visit with the players, remembering everything that happened. It helps give them something fun to focus on for the daily writing assignment.
"A lot of these kids don't get to go to the games on Fridays, so it's a real treat for them to have the players come in and talk to them," Cottrell said.
It seems like a real treat for the players, too.
They read some of the paper, joked with the students, answered questions like "who's the biggest?" and eventually even did a couple of karate moves.
In fact, I'm not sure who had more fun.
It's great to see young adults taking time out of their morning to help out, and have some fun.
Teenagers catch a lot of flak about the dumb things they do, and they get a lot of praise for playing games.
But at a time when these players have a lot to focus on -- school, games and just being teenagers -- they're taking a little time to help the younger kids.
Those guys had a lot of fun that morning, and they had a lot of fun that Friday night, when they beat Eastern. Hopefully, both of these traditions can carry on for a few more weeks.
(By the way, junior offensive lineman/defensive end Donte Minnis was the biggest one in class that morning.)