July 18, 2014
By Brad Muller | More Features
Nearly two dozen South Carolina football student-athletes traded in their playbooks for children's books Friday at the Richland Library in Columbia as part of the annual Pigskin Poets community service program. The student-athletes read books, played "Simon Says" and signed autographs for the more than 300 youngsters in attendance at the 17th annual event that emphasizes the importance of summer reading and setting and achieving goals to elementary school children.
"I come every year," senior punter Patrick Fish said. "It's probably my favorite event to come to. I just like seeing all the kids and hanging out with them. It makes me feel good, but at the end of the day I know I'm just a regular guy who can kick a ball. I just want to be role model for them. I made a bunch of friends. I'm going to do as many of these as I can before I get out of here."
With the excitement beaming from the youngsters' faces, it's easy to see why this is the marquee event of the library's Summer Reading Challenge, which tries to show how reading is a fun activity.
"Pigskin Poets is one of our highlight programs of the summer," said Padgett Mozingo, marketing and communications manager for the Richland Library. "What better opportunity to interact with the football team than in an environment where the players are letting them understand that learning and reading is fun and can help them get to college one day too? Being able to draw on the Gamecocks' popularity to let students be inspired, to dream their dreams, and pursue their dreams is a tremendous opportunity and benefit of working with South Carolina on this program."
The annual event has become a staple on the library's calendar and one that the Gamecock student-athletes have come to enjoy.
"This is my third year doing this," said junior linebacker Kaiwan Lewis. "It's usually a freshman event, but I come back every year because I'm just as excited as the kids. It's not about a football. It's about making a positive impact in a kid's life. College athletes get put on this big pedestal, and we get a chance to give back."
Pigskin Poets is just one of many community service events in which South Carolina student-athletes take part each year.
"Giving back to the community is expected of our student-athletes and they have embraced it," said Erica Nelson, South Carolina's coordinator of life skills and community outreach. "Participating in annual events like this is important because in many instances it's the only opportunity many families have to connect to the team."
More than 20,000 area children participate in the library's summer reading program.
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