DENVER – A group of anxious third, fourth and fifth-grade students sat patiently on the floor of Whittier K-8 School eagerly waiting to find out why they were pulled out of their classes for a surprise assembly.
That energy was exactly the reason that Manning took the time to visit the students after his own workouts at Dove Valley.
“It’s about getting kids active,” Manning said about his visit as part of the Broncos’ partnership with Playworks and NFL Play 60. “Getting active – the more active you are, you pay more attention in school and you have more energy to do your schoolwork. We got to have a lot of fun interacting and playing different kinds of game. At the same time, it’s good for your overall health and it’s good to be doing it at school.”
Playworks is a national organization that promotes physical fitness and activity for youth, and its Denver chapter just celebrated its three-year anniversary.
Playworks Denver Executive Director Andrea Woolley said that having Manning appear on behalf of the organization helps drive the message home with the kids.
“It’s fantastic,” she said. “Our mission is all about kids and teaching them that play and physical activity can transform their lives. Having people who use play and physical activity to transform their lives and impact the community is just so great for them to see a great role model who is going to come and play with them and show them that adults can play too.”
As someone who has made a living via physical activity, Manning knows how important it is to start those habits at a young age.
After apologizing to the kids for taking them out of their classes – nobody seemed to mind – he told them how important it is to get exercise on a regular basis so that it helps the other areas of their lives.
“Being active has been a huge part of my life,” Manning said. “I’ve been as active as I can. You have to be active to be in top shape to do your job. (Play 60) has been a great campaign by the NFL. It’s a great credit to the Broncos for supporting this campaign. I’m glad to be here at Whittier. We are going to have some fun.”
Wednesday's visit marked the second school surprise in a row for Manning, who talked to an audience at Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo. on Tuesday evening.
Manning, who said he "absolutely believes" that it is important to give back to the local community, joined the students in a rotation of games in the school’s gym. He helped coach the kids in one game that resembled one-on-one drills that fans will see during Broncos training camp in August.
Students donned flags and had to try to get past their opponent without their flag getting pulled. Manning coached up both sides, demonstrating his spin and juke moves along with a defensive stance.
“They are never going to forget this day,” said Whittier Principal Jai Palmer, who participated in the game as well. “This is going to be great for them. It’s awesome.”