Northwestern team reads to kids at Evanston school
Northwestern Wildcat tight end Dan Vitale (40) reads "Even Aliens Need Snacks," by Matthew McElligott, to a kindergarten class Sept. 20 as part with the Read Evanston campaign at Lincoln School in Evanston. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 27, 2012 12:06PM
EVANSTON —Dan Vitale plays the Superback position for the Northwestern University football team.
It’s a position that demands a variety of roles in Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s offense.
“It’s kind of like a tight end,” he explained. “I get to block and I get to catch the ball.”
On Thursday, Vitale, in an appearance at Evanston’s Lincoln School, at 910 Forest Ave., took on another role: Super Reader.
Vitale and three other members of Northwestern University team — cornerback C.J. Bryant, and quarterbacks P.J. Carollo and Trevor Siemian —read from children’s books to the excited students.
Vitale, who grew up in Wheaton, read from “Even Aliens Need Snacks” by Matthew McElligott.
Students held many of their questions for later but snuck in a few as he paused in his narrative.
Did he ever score 13 straight times in a game? One asked.
Even Northwestern’s Superback had to answer no to that.
The event was held in line with Paint the Town Purple, a collaborative effort between the city of Evanston and Northwestern’s Athletic Department.
The football players partnered with the schools as part of the “Reading Across Evanston” program, said Maureen Palchak, the athletic department’s assistant director of marketing and community relations.
Players visited four schools last year and are scheduled to visit three this year, she said.
“We view it as incredibly important for us and the community and for our student athletes to have this interaction,” she said. “They (the players) all know what a big deal it is and how much the kids love it and they love it as well.
“So I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, along for the reading, also thought so as well. She gave the 350 students gathered in the Lincoln School auditorium a sort of pop quiz.
“How many games do you think the Northwestern football team has won?” the mayor asked the students.
“Three!” was the resounding response.
She then asked the students how many times they had lost.
Zero, came back the answer.
The mayor said the team’s undefeated status is receiving notice beyond the school.
“I was with Senator (Richard) Durbin and one of the first things he said to me was, ‘‘Liz, 3 and 0,” she said.
The NU players fielded some questions and responses you might expect and then there were a few they probably wouldn’t face postgame at Ryan Field.
For instance, the students asked the players their numbers and also how they manage football and studies.
Second-grader Nicholas Barbera asked what the players do if they have to use the bathroom during the game.
Carollo fielded that one, saying players tried to take care of that need before the game, and pointed out that there was a half-time break, “just in case.”
Another student, to the delight of the other children, expressed the wish the players “beat the pants off,” a future opponent.
One player said the team takes games one at a time but Siemian, picking up on the child’s language, said the players would indeed try to “beat the pants off” the team.