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Some fun on the playground for the Wildcats

Linfield senior quarterback Mickey Inns dropped back and surveyed the field. What he saw was chaos. A few receivers zigzagged in and out of defenders, running unrecognizable routes, while others just ran in circles.

Inns finally checked down and dumped a pass to his halfback, who turned up field and wove his way through the swarming arms of 15 defenders. He finally tumbled to a stop after getting two-hand touched, his momentum carrying him to the ground.

It’s rough on the gridiron at Grand Haven Elementary School.

Inns and other Wildcats football players spent the last three days going to the grade schools in McMinnville to play and hang out with kids on their lunch breaks. Linfield team chaplain Gary Thorson suggested the idea to head coach Joseph Smith, saying it was a great way for players to experience the community and give back in a fun way. It’s something Thorson said he did at every school he coached at.

“I think it’s great that Linfield wants to come and get involved,” Grand Haven Principal Margie Johnson said. “It’s good to have the kids be around college kids who are good role models.”

There wasn’t anything structured about the visits. Players just showed up and reacquainted themselves with wall ball, jump rope and the jungle gym.

Within moments of stepping out onto the playground Friday at Grand Haven, senior kicker Josh Kay had a group of first and second graders following him around. They ran a few laps on a winding track, each circuit earning the children a hole punch on their mileage cards. Kay even made a mileage card of his own.

Then it was a jump rope contests and pushups, Kay counting along and high fiving anyone and everyone.

On the asphalt soccer field, the biggest soccer match in McMinnville commenced, a swarm of children hawking to the neon green ball wherever it bounced. A couple of Linfield players stood out like trees, every now and then heading the ball toward a goalie.

The sillier the game, the bigger the crowd that followed. Kay, who showed even more energy than some of the exuberant kids chasing him, led a pack of 16 across the playground equipment. They trooped across balance beams and swung across monkey bars.

Standing nearby is one of the recess monitors at Grand Haven. She not so secretly discloses she had to blow her whistle on Thursday at a couple of the “big kids” who were being unsafe on the giant web climbing structure in the middle of the playground.

“Just kids being kids, no matter the age,” her smile seems to say.

And that’s the beauty of Linfield sending some of its football team to the grade schools. Sometimes there doesn’t need to be any more reason to go outside and play other than that it’s good for you. The unstructured recess hangouts benefit the grade schoolers because they look up to the older kids, and it benefits the college students because they get to connect with the community on a different level and escape their own structured life at Linfield.

Eventually, the whistle blows, signaling the end of recess. Kids obediently sprint for the door to line up, first saying goodbye to their giant playmates. A few handshakes are exchanged and even a couple hugs. But mostly, the fast friends high five and make promises to play again soon.

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