Fred Smoot Likes Reading, Veterans, Loading Delivery Trucks

Fred Smoot was in the parking lot of Redskins Park today, loading a FedEx truck with sealed boxes while the uniformed FedEx driver stood by, watching nervously.

smootloadstruck1

“Lift with your legs, man,” the FedEx guy said. “We can’t have you getting hurt — and it’ll cost me my job if you do.”

“I’m lifting all upper body,” Smoot said, laughing. “What I need is one of those FedEx uniforms. I could get used to this job.”


My immediate concern was that Smoot was looking for some part-time holiday work, what with the economic downturn and the Redskins recent addition to their cornerback ranks, but that turned out to be incorrect. This was simply the first part of Fred Smoot’s participation in today’s Redskins Charitable Foundation Redskins Read event — loading boxes of books to bring to Rolling Ridge Elementary School in Sterling, Virginia.

I’ve talked to Smoot about children’s books before, which led to about an hour of me Googling various possible spellings of “Buffy and Mack” and growing increasingly frustrated, so maybe I should’ve been skittish. Really, though, the idea of an event that consisted entirely of Fred Smoot reading a book to an auditorium full of kids seemed to promise a certain amount of built-in comedy. Instead, I got a surprisingly moving tribute to Veteran’s Day, so the world remains full of surprises.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, honestly, was the first Redskins introduced at the school: former Hog Raleigh McKenzie. McKenzie is currently a teaching assistant there, and expects to become a certified teacher in the near future. He spoke to the kids about the importance of their dreams, which was also much more moving than it sounds typed out like that.

Then Fred Smoot arrived, still carrying a box of books from the truck, and introduced himself to the kids. “I’m from the South, now,” he said, “so I’m going to read slow.”

Smoot initially sat on the stage alone, before looking around and inviting a huge group of kids to sit with him while he read America Is.

(Not this blog, although I would’ve paid good money to see the assembled elementary school student body respond to Smoot making such points as “When Crown Prince Abdullah glided in to land at Bush’s ranch in Texas after September 11th, he demanded that all female air traffic controllers be removed from their posts.” And also not this “flash photographic essay on key American values,” although that might’ve been interesting as well.)

This was a straightforward children’s book (“an unabashedly patriotic picture book,” says Publishers Weekly), and the sort of thing that seems hokey and forgettable under most circumstances. But watching a whole roomful of kids hang on Smoot’s every word, after reciting the loudest Pledge of Allegiance I’ve ever heard (“I could hear y’all down the street,” Smoot said) and being educated on the history and meaning of Veteran’s Day … at the very least, it was more than the mildly amusing bloggable event I was expecting.

Unsurprisingly, Smoot had an excellent rapport with the elementary school kids, which was highlighted when he took their questions. It was mostly real hard-hitting interrogation like “What’s your name?” and “What’s your favorite color?” but even the Q&A had its touching moment. A boy in a 21 jersey asked, “Were you sad when Sean Taylor died?” and Smoot said, “I was sad, and it’s good to see you wearing his jersey.”

After the questions and answers wrapped, Smoot went outside to unload the truck and deliver the books to the kids.

smootunloadstruck

(Yes, the first kid in line was wearing a Gus Frerotte Redskins jersey, which is awesome. I suspect that whoever that jersey was originally purchased for is at happy hour in some college somewhere, which just makes it even more awesome.)

So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself commemorating Veteran’s Day properly, not just being mildly amused at the reading of a children’s book. I’m still disappointed that I haven’t gotten to hear Smoot actually read any of the Buffy & Mack stories, though. Something to look forward to.

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9 Responses

  1. Wonderful entry. Your little side comments really give the events described substance and meaning – makes for feel-good reading. Great Veteran’s Day entry. Not surprisingly.

  2. NIce work Matt. I LOL’ed several times. Your video is down though.

  3. Matt,
    I am happy that the players are always involved in the community, and I maybe wrong but it seems that every time they do something its in the better privileged neighborhoods in Virginia, never actually in DC. Is there a set schedule or are these things more spur of the moment?

  4. Great report, Matt! I love watching the players interacting with the kids!

  5. Gotta say, Matt. This blog thing is really working out better than I expected. This was great stuff.

  6. DCross,

    JC was in DC for that traffic education thing.

  7. Jordana Taylor, Program Director of the Redskins Charitable Foundation, responds to the question from DCross:

    Great question! Each visit the Redskins make in the community is very strategic. The team seeks out locations that will allow us to focus on areas of greatest need – which includes areas in DC, MD, and VA. Through the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, Redskins players participate in scheduled programs in the community every Tuesday during the regular season. The focus of the Foundation is to make a positive and measurable impact on youth development in the greater Washington, DC region in the areas of education, community outreach, and health and wellness. So far this season, Redskins have been out in our community (DC, MD, and VA) reading to kids, preparing meals for the homeless, helping young people get physically active, and teaching high school athletes how to be successful on and off the playing field. Specifically, the Foundation is very involved with high schools in both Prince George’s County, MD (Central, Fairmont Heights, Douglass, and Largo) and the District of Columbia (Anacostia and Ballou) where they provide weekly football field maintenance as well as support through other Foundation programs including Atlas & Athena and Coaches in the Classroom. In addition to Fred Smoot’s reading event today at Rolling Ridge Elementary School in Sterling, VA (which is actually an incredibly diverse school both ethnically and socio-economically), six players (Fletcher, Washington, McIntosh, Horton, Brennan, and Sinclair) visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC in honor of Veteran’s Day. For more information about the Foundation, please visit the Community section of Redskins.com.

  8. One more story of Redskin players “off field” activities. Very refreshing. Have said before, this team is made of character – (even the character’s antics are fun stuff).

  9. Thanks for the response, it is good to see that the guys are out in the community every week giving back.

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