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NFL'er's secret to playing well

The guest speaker in Scenic Middle School’s gym Friday afternoon was no stranger to public speaking.

Anthony Newman has performed in front of crowds numbering in the thousands, sweating, shoving and running as a defensive back with the University of Oregon Ducks and then three teams in the National Football League.

Several years now into retirement from football, Newman spends more time visiting Oregon schools to speak about healthy nutrition and regular exercise — it’s what brought him to the Central Point middle school during the district’s first week of school.

He told the students seated in the gym a story from his rookie season in the NFL. It was a September, his first game of the season against the Green Bay Packers, in 100-degree heat, he said. In his hurry to get ready for the game, Newman didn’t eat breakfast that day — he only drank a glass of orange juice.

He was moving slow and feeling bad, he said. He started to “get the shakes.” Eventually, his coach took him out of the game, and when the coach found out why Newman was playing off — because he hadn’t eaten enough that morning — Newman said he was fined for letting his team down.

“I was counting on myself and I couldn’t perform,” Newman said. He used that example to draw a comparison to kids’ needs to get through the school day focused, alert and performing well.

While waiting for kids to arrive before the assembly, Newman said he knows that children will sometimes be more absorbent to messages about healthy lifestyles when the encouragement comes from adults who aren’t their parents.

“I’ll tell them, ‘I’ll come back and talk to your teachers, talk to your administrators and see how you’re doing,’” he said.

Newman’s rallying cry to students in the Scenic gym was accompanied by another new arrival, now installed in the cafeteria. A salad bar with more efficient refrigeration equipment will allow the school to offer students more healthy options for their lunches and breakfasts.

Anne Leavens, the school district’s nutrition services supervisor, said the salad bar and the serving pans that came with it, all of which came provided by a grant from produce company Chelan Fresh, would be cost-prohibitive for the district on its own.

“To get a lot of (the pans) is exciting,” Leavens said. “It allows us to offer items that we normally wouldn’t put out there and it keeps it at a better quality.”

The new equipment can keep perishable foods cold for longer periods, lowering the risk of them spoiling.

Leavens said the new salad bar will also be used to boost offerings at the yogurt bar for breakfast.

Physical education, related to the other aspect of Newman’s talk, is also on the rise at Scenic. Brad Eaton, principal, said that the school recently expanded PE classes so that most students now have them year-round; before, most had PE only one trimester of the year. It also opened a new fitness center that Eaton said most students get into two or three times a week.

“Healthy kids learn better, they perform better,” he said. “It makes them a lot more successful in the classroom.”

Those impacts, the potential consequences of planting seeds of interest, are what Newman said drive him to visit schools across the state for these brief presentations and stories.

“That’s my joy,” he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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