NASHVILLE – Titans coach Mike Vrabel opened up a book on Monday morning, but it wasn't a playbook.
Instead, it was much different: "The Hog Mollies and the Pickle Pie Party."
Vrabel and four of his players spent the morning at Paragon Mills Elementary School, where they read to students and then gave out books from Vrabel's Second and Seven Foundation. The appearance served as a kickoff to the school's Read Across America Week.
The school's theme for the week is "Titan Up and Read."
"It is so amazing, and it's a great way for our kids to see people on TV in real life, and know they are supporting the work we do in school with literacy as well," said Dr. Shawnna Pierce, principal at the school. "We tell them all the time how important it is to read, and to see people they see on TV and on the field, I think the whole role model aspect brings a huge connection to them. And it provides them with an experience that will continue for the rest of their lives."
Vrabel was joined by safety Johnathan Cyprien, punter Brett Kern, kicker Ryan Succop and linebacker Rashaan Evans at the school. Titans cheerleaders and T-Rac were also on hand.
Vrabel and Evans took turns reading to large group of students, while other players went to other classrooms and read.
"We're very excited to be out here to help Read Across America get started, and to promote literacy throughout Nashville and to really share our message," Vrabel said. "It's important to read, but also the comprehension of it. And we're trying to help the students here.
"This is something I did in college and was comfortable doing, going into schools, being the son of two educators, two principals."
The 2nd and 7 Foundation was started in 1999 by three former Ohio State Buckeye football players – Vrabel, Ryan Miller and Luke Fickell. Inspired by their involvement in various community outreach programs as student-athletes at Ohio State, they decided to continue to make a difference by promoting literacy and providing positive role models for children in central Ohio. Over the past 20 years, the program has grown to 180 communities in 26 states.
The "Tackling Illiteracy" program encourages student-athletes from universities and high schools across the nation to participate in weekly readings in second-grade classrooms. While in the classrooms, they are reading to the kids, passing out free books for the kids to take home and reminding the kids why it is so important to read. The 2nd and 7 Foundation created a book series called the Hog Mollies; each book teaches valuable life lessons. In 2019, the foundation will be releasing the 12th book in the series.
The mission of The 2nd and 7 Foundation is "to promote reading by providing free books and positive role models to kids in need while encouraging young athletes of the community to pay it forward."
The 2nd and 7 Foundation has donated over 300,000 books to kids in need since it started in 1999.
After reading to the students, Vrabel and the players asked questions of the students, and gave responses. Some of the questions strayed from the book, and made for some funny answers.Cyprien found himself in an arm-wrestling contest with a student by the end of the morning.
"It was so much fun," Cyprien said. "It was great, to see them light up, and to see their smiles. It is something you don't forget."
Titans players Brett Kern, Ryan Succop, Johnathan Cyprien and Rashaan Evans joined head coach Mike Vrabel in reading to students at Paragon Mills Elementary as a kickoff to the school's Read Across America Week. (Photos: Gary Glenn)