IRVING, Texas – Rookie cornerback Devin Smith still remembers when he was a child at Valley Ranch Elementary School, where the Cowboys rookies surprised students Wednesday in their first community appearance since joining the team.
Smith was one of 22 rookies from the Cowboys who joined representatives from The Cooper Institute and volunteers from UnitedHealthcare (UHC) in an NFL PLAY 60 FITNESSGRAM pep rally and outdoor fitness clinic at the school in Irving, Texas.
"It's a great feeling, first playing for my hometown team, and second of all just coming back here helping out the kids in any way that we can," Smith said. "I had two of my teachers in there, so it was great to see them."
The event kicked off with an indoor assembly with representatives from The Cooper Institute educating participants on the importance and purpose of FITNESSGRAM testing, which is a health-related physical fitness assessment and reporting tool, and encouraging them to set summertime health and wellness goals.
The rookies shared advice on how they stay in shape and the importance of being fit before then heading outdoors with Rowdy to lead the fifth-grade students through five rounds of fitness drills. Memories of Smith's childhood came back vividly as the Cowboys began setting up the drills for the children to participate in.
His NFL dreams all began at that elementary school. He lived in the apartments across the street from the school and would pass by the facility every day just minutes from his home.
"I always grew up wanting to be a Cowboy and I was always a Cowboys fan ever since I was little, so it was just a blessing that it finally came true," Smith said.
The Cowboys teamed up with UnitedHealthcare to present the Dallas Cowboys Rookie Club, an annual initiative designed to introduce the team's newest members to the importance of giving back to the North Texas community. Wednesday's event is the first of several the 2013 Dallas Cowboys Rookie Club will make this spring.
In the coming weeks, the Cowboys' rookies are also scheduled to visit Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children as well as the North Texas Food Bank.
"We're just teaching the kids to stay active and get out and play when they get some free time and eat healthy and live an active life," said tight end Gavin Escobar. "I like doing this kind of stuff."
Wednesday's event was part of the Cowboys' and NFL's PLAY 60 initiative aimed at tackling childhood obesity. The Cowboys and the NFL have partnered with The Cooper Institute to supply local schools and after-school programs with FITNESSGRAM, which includes web-based software, training and support. Students from Valley Ranch Elementary just completed their FITNESSGRAM end-of-year testing before participating in the event.