Maybe it’s the name: Russell Wilson.
Maybe it’s the power of the 12th Man.
Either way, like the Super Bowl-winning quarterback, a group of Spokane schoolchildren ignored naysayers and powered through to victory Thursday.
Five months of effort by students at the temporarily renamed “Russell” Wilson Elementary School drew the attention of the Seattle Seahawks organization, which provided T-shirts for the kids and a Skype session with the championship quarterback.
“It was such a driven effort, we just had to do something,” said Connie Cate, the assistant director of community outreach for the Seahawks. She brought along the football team’s mascot, Blitz, on a school visit Thursday.
The first time the Seahawks organization took notice of the school came after seeing a YouTube video of an open letter from second-grader Noelle Fries.
“Even though you and your team just won the Super Bowl, you are already a huge winner in my book. I like football, but here’s why I really like you: You inspire me and even my classmates that rooted for the Broncos,” Fries reads from the letter while standing in front of the temporarily renamed school.
“I hope you come see us soon,” the little girl continues. “It would be our way of thanking you for giving us a great football season, but more importantly for being a great role model.”
The elementary school’s fundraising efforts for the Spokane Guilds School factored into the Seahawks’ decision to visit, Cate said. One of the organization’s missions is healthy development of youth through education and athletics.
Wilson Elementary Principal Tony Ressa, who has led the charge to bring Wilson to Spokane, kicked off the fundraiser on Thursday with a $12,000 goal, continuing the spirit of the 12th Man.
After lunch, hundreds of students as well as faculty and staff proudly wore their new Seahawks shirts. Children followed Blitz around like the Pied Piper during recess while the man-size Seahawk showed off his football, basketball and running abilities. After the mascot posed for pictures with students in each classroom, the pupils gathered in the gym to talk to Russell Wilson over the Internet.
Children asked Wilson prepared questions, and the 25-year-old answered each one from the hallway of the team’s practice facility in Renton.
What job did you want to do before and after football? Wilson replied that he always wanted to play football. He also had the opportunity to play professional baseball before graduating from high school. But it was important for him to go to college.
“Some people say the NFL stands for Not For Long,” he said. “I knew if I set myself up academically then I didn’t have to worry about how I did athletically.” Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s in educational leadership and policy analysis.
Next question: “How do you deal with adversity?” Wilson’s response: “Adversity is opportunity to build character.”
At the end of the assembly, the students chanted to the Phish song “Wilson,” and waved goodbye.
Said Ressa: “You’re an inspiration.”