“I love football because I like to knock people down,” former Atlanta Falcons linebacker and defensive end Tim Green said to students in third, fourth and fifth grade at Waverly Park, who responded with a laugh. “The other thing I loved was books,” he added.
Green, who played in the NFL from 1986 to 1993, visited the school on March 8 and said that some of his favorite books growing up were “Bud, Not Buddy,” and “Holes.” He admitted that not every child would enjoy them, however. Green added he believes that once a child does read a book he or she enjoys, they will want to continue to read more books. “Put down books if you don’t love them,” he told the students. “Unless it’s a school assignment.”
It’s important to read, Green said, because it helps students succeed. Although students may want to be a professional athlete or entertainer, Green cautioned that those professions require a certain degree of luck.
He told the children that he was never a good student, but he worked as hard as he could in football, and is now a criminal defenses attorney. “The beauty of school is that all the hard work you do, it always pays you back,” he said.
Green wrote 19 books as part of a “Genius” series, which appeals to young students. They contain short chapters, sports action and “tough” female characters, he said. His newest book, “Baseball Genius,” features a female character by the name of Kat Hewlett and exposes children to the world of Major League Baseball, with the help of his co-author, Derek Jeter.
“About a year and a half ago Derek, his publishing group, contacted me and they said ‘Would you like to write a book with Derek?’” Green recalled. “And I said, ‘How high can I jump?’”
The book’s main character, named Jalen DeLuca, is friends with Hewlett in the story, and is based off of Jeter’s real-life nephew. In the book, Jalen is able to accurately predict the next pitch in a baseball game and helps save an aging Yankee player’s career. This story, however, is interspersed with the problems that Jalen faces as the son of immigrants. At one point, he is called a “mutt” because he is mixed-race.
Green believes that this narrative will teach students to be kind to one another despite their differences. “We learn as readers not to judge a book by its cover,” he told the students, “and not to judge a person by their outside.”
That is why Green left the students with some homework: To say or do something kind to someone other than a friend.