By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The second stop of the Washington Redskins' 80th Anniversary Thank You Tour hit Shenandoah County High Schools Friday. Each brought something a little different and unique, but the common theme throughout was how inspiring the day was for the students.
Elementary and middle-school students went to their respective high schools -- Strasburg, Central and Stonewall Jackson -- for the tour.
Current Washington Redskins running back Tim Hightower, and former Redskins Sam Huff, Mark Moseley and Dexter Manley were all on hand for the tour, as was Larry Michael, the voice of the Redskins and Redskins Vice President/General Manager Bruce Allen.
Festivities kicked off at the Strasburg High School football field. The Rams entire football team turned out dressed in their jerseys, and sat inside the football field near the Redskins.
Strasburg senior Ryan McElroy presented a Strasburg Ram No. 80 jersey to the Redskins.
"I was a little nervous because it was in front of the Redskins and everything," McElroy said of the presentation. "It was a great honor. It was awesome."
Each of the Redskins gave a little speech at each of the schools, and Michael allowed fans to ask a few questions to the Redskins.
At Central High School, Allen stressed to the students how important it was to be a good teammate. He also told them it was important to listen to their teachers and their parents.
Manley asked the students at Central if there were any Dallas Cowboys fans there. After hearing some cheers, Manley said "I only have one thing to say to that -- Cowboys suck."
Manley also talked about his many ups and downs in life, and the importance of faith and overcome adversity.
Hightower gave a speech about working hard to achieve your goals. Hightower, a native of Alexandria, went to high school at Episcopal and played college football at the University of Richmond. He said it's great to be able to give back to people in the community.
"One of the reasons I was so excited to come to the Redskins was to get a chance to help my community where I live," Hightower said in an interview after the Central event. "I consider all of the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area as home. To get a chance to interact with your community and reach out and meet everybody is a good feeling."
Hightower's words during his speech at Central inspired some of the football players.
"Hightower said, 'Don't give up, dreams aren't impossible. They can come true,'" Central sophomore Josh Gum said. "For me that just means I got to work hard. I want to play in college. It makes you want to work harder. He came from a place around here and Richmond isn't the biggest school, but he still made it. It shows how much work he did to get there."
Hightower and Moseley were not on hand at Stonewall Jackson, but there was still plenty of inspiration to be found.
The event was moved to the gym, due to the heat, but things still went smoothly. The Stonewall Jackson band played "Hail to the Redskins" as the Redskins entered the gym.
Manley spoke to the students about passion and staying true to oneself.
The football players weren't the only big hit with the students. Several of the Redskins cheerleaders were on hand, and got plenty of attention at both Central and Stonewall Jackson. One youngster at Central asked if the cheerleaders were married.
At Stonewall Jackson, several asked for hugs. Stonewall Jackson cheerleader Dominique Simmons asked during the Q-and-A session if she could meet them. She was allowed to talk to them and give them hugs.
"I was really, really nervous because they're like famous," Simmons said. "I asked them where they were from, and they told me how old you have to be to cheer for them or try out. You have to be 18.
"It was very inspiring."
While it may have been inspiring for the students, Hightower said the entire tour is very rewarding for him.
"I think it's great that the Redskins are doing this," Hightower said, "Just really coming around and thanking all of the fans who mean so much. You never really get a chance to meet them. You can express your appreciation for all the people who are watching the game every Sunday, who are buying the jerseys."