As soon as the fifth and sixth graders saw Nate Burleson and Seneca Wallace they pulled out their cell phones to capture the Seahawks players’ visit to Cedar Valley Elementary last Friday for posterity.
Wallace, who is the backup quarterback for the Seahawks, couldn’t believe it when he saw multiple students with cell phones, but he happily posed for them when asked.
Once the students were settled in, librarian Cheryl Taylor, who has known Burleson his entire life, worked with teachers to coordinate a question and answer session with the two Seahawks players.
Students asked if the players ever dreamt of playing professional sports as well as the upsides and downsides of playing in the NFL.
Burleson, who is a wide receiver, said it took him “a lot of time to appreciate the sport.”
“Honestly, I never thought of becoming an NFL player,” he said. “It’s a lot of sacrifice and dedication. It’s one of the hardest things to do but I’m glad I stuck with it.”
Wallace said he had aspirations to play pro sports when he was a youngster and re-iterated “there’s a lot of work that goes into that.”
“It starts here (in school),” Wallace said. “It’s a long road. You guys have got to dream big.”
Both players have thought about what they would do if they weren’t playing pro football.
“NFL stands for Not For Long,” Wallace said. “I got my degree and I’m happy about it. I’d definitely like to do something with coaching and if not that something working with kids.”
Burleson, who attended O’Dea High School in Seattle and graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in business management, said he has always had an interest in starting his own business but he also enjoys working with kids particularly through his foundation.
“Everywhere my foot steps have been I give back,” Burleson said. “I would be doing this almost every day of the week, telling kids like you that you can do anything.”
Wallace asked the students if they knew who Paul Allen is and some of them raised their hands. He told them that owning your own business is the way to go.
“Do you think Paul Allen ever played sports,” Wallace asked the kids. “But now he owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trailblazers. Everybody wants to be in that position where they can sign a paycheck and hand it to their employees.”
The players encouraged the students to dream big and told them that the path to success started with a good education.
“When I was in elementary school the last thing I thought about was sports or recess,” Burleson said. “I wanted to be the smartest kid. So focus on your homework because that is the most important thing you’ve got right now. Focus on your grades and let that become the foundation of something special.”
Wallace told the students life is a marathon and that success starts now in the classroom.
“Set the bar high,” he said.
Taylor said she couldn’t have been more pleased about how the visit went.
“I just wanted to get them here for the kids,” she said. “They did an awesome job. That was all impromptu for them. Programs like this are so important for the kids.”