Community service

Mary Hardin-Baylor senior cornerback Kris Brown reads a book to third-grade students at South Salem Elementary School in Salem, Va., on Thursday as part of a community service project in conjunction with the NCAA Division III national championship game.

Eric Drennan/Telegram

SALEM, Va. – Evidently, children don’t care much for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches any more. Also, a defensive lineman impersonating a quarterback is a tough sell, even to 8-year-olds.

Those were two of the discoveries made Thursday morning at South Salem Elementary School, where eight members of the Mary Hardin-Baylor football team paid a visit to four third-grade classrooms as part of a community service project in conjunction with the NCAA Division III national championship game.

Among the questions posed to the Crusaders, who wore their purple jerseys:

* Are you the Vikings?

* Have you ever had any live animals run onto the field while you were playing?

* Have you ever blown out a team?

* You said you’re from Texas, but is it OK if my dad is a Redskins fan?

Linebacker Tevin Jones and cornerback Raylon Hickey helped a class with an art project. Running back Markeith Miller and wide receiver Bryce Wilkerson worked on a computer program with their group. Offensive lineman Corbin Campitelli and wide receiver T.J. Josey assisted with a math lesson, and defensive lineman Brazos Fuller and cornerback Kris Brown read books to their classroom.

As a joke, the 6-foot-2-inch, 270-pound Fuller traded in his No. 99 jersey for No. 12 and told everybody that he was the Crusaders’ quarterback. The children, though, weren’t buying it.

“The kids I was reading to kept looking over at Brazos and saying, ‘His shirt’s too small,’ and ‘He can’t be the quarterback,’” Brown said. “Even they knew he had to be a lineman.”

Fuller eventually spilled the beans and admitted that he will wear No. 99 in the Stagg Bowl tonight, when No. 1 UMHB (14-0) will defend its national title in a clash with No. 2 Mount Union (14-0). The game will be televised nationally at 6 p.m. on ESPNU, and the school visit gave the Crusaders a break from their preparation and numerous media sessions.

“I enjoyed it. I got to read to the kids I was with. Some of the other guys were in a classroom where they had to do math, which was pretty confusing for them,” Brown joked. “I know the kids enjoyed all of it, though. It was a good experience. Engaging with the local community is always good.”

As for the sandwiches, the students’ choices for lunch Thursday were chicken nuggets, a cheeseburger or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Nuggets were chosen by 51 of the children, with five opting for the cheeseburger and only two deciding on the PBJ.

When asked why almost nobody wanted the sandwich, most of the responses were a version of “It’s gross,” until one small boy stepped forward with an explanation.

“The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches they serve here have 610 calories, but you can buy other ones at the store that have only 210 calories,” he said.

It’s impossible to get anything past children these days, especially a high-calorie sandwich — or a 270-pound lineman posing as a quarterback.

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