On Dec. 26, 2012, a handful of West Virginia players visited the pediatric wing at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
Nine Mountaineers, including quarterback Geno Smith and defensive lineman Ivory Drewery, visited with more than 20 children, playing board games, completing arts and crafts projects, and competing in some hotly contested Wii Sports battles.
"It's great to hang out with some really neat kids, interact with them and just give back," said Smith. "It's humbling to get to know these kids and their families. Just being able to make them smile just makes my day a lot better. It's a wonderful feeling."
As the morning wound down, the children asked Smith for his autograph, and he obliged, signing WVU hats and T-shirts distributed to the group. Then the senior turned the tables, taking off his New Era Pinstripe Bowl beanie and coyly asking the kids for their signatures.
"I was talking to one parent about [our demanding schedule], but that really means nothing compared to the lives of these kids," Smith said. "They all deserve a chance to smile. That means so much."
On Dec. 4, 2012, Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School pulled out a nail-biting win over Staten Island's Tottenville High School to capture the New York Public Schools Athletic League championship, 15-14, at Yankee Stadium.
Hosting the PSAL title game for the third straight year, Yankee Stadium was transformed into a football paradise with cheerleaders and fans taking in all the action from the stands and the sidelines.
"I couldn't be more thankful; it's just great to be back at Yankee Stadium," said Erasmus Hall coach Danny Landberg, whose Dutchmen lost in the PSAL title game in 2011.
Tottenville led early, but Erasmus Hall stormed back from a 14-7 deficit behind quarterback Jonathan Samerson, who rushed in for a score from 3 yards out to cut the deficit to 14-13 late in the third quarter. Landberg called for a two-point conversion, which junior running back Curtis Samuel - who shed two would-be tacklers - converted to give the Dutchmen a 15-14 lead they would hold on to.
The Dutchmen's first-ever PSAL title was the result of a defense that held the Pirates in check after Tottenville got two early touchdowns from running back Andre Darnt and quarterback Brandon Barnes.
"The PSAL championship is a great opportunity for us to showcase kids who are not only performing well on the field, but are also doing well in the classroom," said Brian Smith, Yankees senior vice president of corporate and community relations. "We're always excited to host this event and work with the PSAL every year."
Amid team photos, Yankee Stadium walk-throughs and New Era Pinstripe Bowl preparations, members of the Syracuse University football team carved out some time that, hopefully, will have an impact long after the game's final touchdown.
On Dec. 28, 2012, SU welcomed nearly 100 youth from the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club for a coach's clinic and chalk talk at the Stadium.
The young participants split up into positional groups, some kicking field goals in the direction of home plate and others lining up against offensive and defensive linemen, seeing if they could cut it against the Orange.
"Playing sports is a privilege and an honor - our players will tell you that," said Syracuse coach Doug Marrone during a motivational pep talk to his team and the Kips Bay members at around the 30-yard line, what would usually be center field. "We may fall a little bit, we may have a little adversity, but as a team we help each other and support each other to stay on track."
Marrone, a Bronx native coaching in his second New Era Pinstripe Bowl in three years, also delivered a message of valuing education, even for his Syracuse team.
"We are developing the education and life skills to be successful after football," Marrone said. "Our goal is to graduate so wherever we go we feel we belong."
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