Apollo football players read at their old schools

Apollo football players read at their old schools


Apollo football players read at their old schools


It was an accident that Jordan Smith picked up “Just A Little Too Little” by Mercer Mayer to read to Madison Elementary School students.

But the humor wasn’t lost on his St. Cloud Apollo High School football teammates. Smith is a 320-pound junior offensive lineman who will be one of the Eagles’ captains this fall.

“The kids were probably a little confused when they saw that,” sophomore quarterback Joe Atkinson said with a grin.

Apollo football players blanketed Apollo’s part of St. Cloud school district earlier this week to read books to students at their former elementary schools. Their stops Monday included Madison, Kennedy, Westwood and Discovery schools.

Groups of teenage football players wearing Apollo Eagles jerseys read to elementary school students in 49 classrooms as part of a program put together in 2014 by head coach Justin Skaalerud.

“For our guys, it’s just a good experience to get out and talk to young students about their experiences,” Skaalerud said. “For the (elementary school) kids, it’s a great opportunity to see what it’s like to be a student-athlete and to question teenagers.

“And for Apollo High School, it’s a great school and we are fortunate to be able to get them out and be positive faces in the community. We feel it’s important.”

Skaalerud came up with the idea at a coaches clinic. Former Minneapolis Washburn head coach Giovan Jenkins did a similar program with his football players, Skaalerud said.

Jenkins, who recently resigned to volunteer in the University of Minnesota football program, told Skaalerud it was a great way to get his athletes involved in their community.

The eight Apollo players at Madison on Monday certainly enjoyed it.

“It maybe was a little awkward, but that wouldn’t be the word I’d use,” Smith said. “After you got started, it was kind of fun.”

Players read age-appropriate books to first- and second-grade classes, then answered questions.

Jakob Erickson-Thoemke, a sophomore lineman, read “The Lost Dinosaur Bone” by Mercer Mayer.

“It was fun,” he said of the experience. “It’s fun to come back and see my old school and to read to little kids.

“Some of these kids will be playing football.”

Both Apollo and Technical high schools have elementary school football programs set up at all the schools in their parts of the district.

Erickson-Thoemke and Atkinson said they remember their Madison team being undefeated.

The Madison students’ question-and-answer sessions after story time brought the most grins of the day.

A sample:

“Are you married?”

“Do you like chicken wings?”

“Are you the quarterback for the Vikings?”

“Is there a barbershop at Apollo?”

There were some pertinent ones, too.

Sophomore wide receiver Peter Bergstrom was asked about how many players were on Apollo’s football team. “About 100,” said Bergstrom, who read “Gregory, the Terrible Eater.”

They were asked about their training.

“We lift weights and do conditioning five days a week if we’re not in another sport,” Smith said.

Junior wide receiver Cole Johnson read “Froggy Plays T-ball.”

Afterward, one of the students in Xi Song’s Chinese immersion first-grade class exclaimed: “I used to play T-ball, but I got in trouble.”

Johnson and Smith laughed.

Both remembered their Madison days.

“It seemed a lot bigger back then,” Johnson said. “Now that I’m older, it seems so small.”

Bergstrom and Atkinson were asked in Julie Krueger’s second-grade class what subjects they learned in high school. The answer: algebra, biology, English, social studies, etc.

They also were asked about what books they remembered enjoying in elementary school.

Bergstrom suggested “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls, a chapter book. Atkinson said he started reading the Harry Potter series in elementary school.

“It brings back a lot of good memories,” Atkinson said. “I had a lot of fun times here.

“It’s always fun to see little kids. I can remember when Apollo kids came in and did the same thing to us.”

Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.


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