The visitors were much, much bigger than the home team. But the home team had the visitors in the palms of their hands.
Santa Rosa Junior College Bear Cub football players took the field Friday with a class of Proctor Terrace Elementary School second- graders.
It was the latest event in an ongoing relationship between the team and teacher Leslie Gude-Dunbar’s class, in which the players squeeze themselves into chairs that are far too small and spend time reading and talking to students.
“One thing I want these guys to understand is that you’re always being watched,” said Logo Tevaseu, assistant defensive line coach. “Being in that position, you have the opportunity to do some really good things, to make some change.”
On Friday, 15 players showed up in full uniform at the Bryden Lane campus to run drills with the students, who hit pads, high-stepped and practiced starts off the line.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa — clap once,” Tevaseu shouted. “We’re going to get into a football stance now.”
He said he hopes to get more SRJC athletic teams to work with more Santa Rosa schools in the future.
Her students are somewhat in awe of the players, Gude-Dunbar said, and not just because of their relative size.
“They look up to them because of their hard work, they idolize these big guys,” she said. “They thought they were the 49ers when they came in.”
On the field under a hot October sun, the teammates encouraged students with whoops and hollers.
“Watch the ball, watch the ball!” “Get your feet down, hit it!”
“When I was younger, my hometown had a lot of this,” said Alex Lindley, a Fortuna native. “I like to be able to come out and give back like when I was a little kid.”
During the sharks and minnows drill, one offensive lineman sought clarification: “Tommy, Tommy, do we only move side to side?”
“Yes,” said Tommy Carrell, a hulking right guard, who is in his second year of visits to Gude-Dunbar’s classroom.
“There’s been some special little bonds built,” he said. “It’s so rewarding to see the kids so enthusiastic, to see them smile and have so much fun and compete.”
Zachary Thomas, 7, took a breather that had been ordered after an arduous drill.
“They’re really funny and really fun,” he said of the players. “And they do great things for us and I really, really appreciate it.”
Staff Writer Jeremy Hay blogs about education at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach him at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jeremyhay.