FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – By the looks of it, I’d venture to say it’s probably always a good day to be a student at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. But boy what a great day it must have been to be a kid at school on Wednesday.
The AFC and NFC Pro Bowl squads practiced for the first time Wednesday morning at Brian Piccolo Stadium, named after the former Chicago Bears fullback who was a 1961 graduate of Central Catholic High School (renamed St. Thomas Aquinas).
How cool must it be for the kids to skip out on a few classes to watch the NFL’s best?
“This is great,” senior Robert Ramos said. “Those guys are fast, and the offensive linemen are humongous.”
Several hundred students — with their teachers’ permission, of course — filled the stands throughout the morning to get a glimpse of their favorite NFL All-Stars. They were treated to some up-close encounters in the process, with Eagles K David Akers playing catch with the crowd and signing autographs during practice, and Miles Austin running over to the stands after practice to sign some himself. Aaron Rodgers, Donovan McNabb and a few others eventually got into the mix, as well.
“This is just a great experience, you know,” senior James White said. “Not many people get to see this. This is really special.”
Former Vikings great Cris Carter, who coaches wide receivers on the school’s football team, was on hand and introduced Vernon Davis and DeSean Jackson to his young players.
“Every kid who plays football it’s his dream to go to the NFL,” junior wide receiver Rashad Greene said. “So this is a great experience and an opportunity to see how things go in the pros.”
All in all, I’d say a nice trade-off for the kids at St. Thomas Aquinas: A lesson in trigonometry for the chance to watch a practice featuring the NFL’s best. I would’ve taken that any day when I was in high school.
And this is only the beginning. Practices will take place here through Friday.
– Simon Samano