It’s not very often that a celebrity or professional athlete will make a trip out to small town America, especially in the distant plains of southwest Kansas.
This is why the entire Ingalls football team seemed starstruck when New England Patriot’s defensive end, Geneo Grissom, made an appearance at their camp on Friday.
“Having Geneo come in and teach the kids was something very special. The kids listened and tried to do everything he was telling them to do,” said head coach Vestal Teeter. “We finished out our team camp on a really high note. The players at all levels got a great opportunity to learn from a NFL player and the high school linemen had a chance to listen to someone other than myself.”
The Ingalls football team had been working hard at camp all week, with Grissom’s appearance being the grand finale on Friday. Grissom ran drills at the camp for no charge, simply the pleasure of getting to work with the kids.
This all wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for a past connection Grissom holds with current Ingalls assistant football coach, Braden Pelischek.
“Geneo and I both went to Hutchinson High School, he graduated in 2010 with myself graduating in 2011,” he said. “I could say I asked him to come out because he played a huge role on Hutchinson's football team to win 3 state 6A title's while he started, or mention his plays in the Sugar Bowl when he played for Oklahoma or his lead block in the Super Bowl, but the main reason I reached out to Geneo is because of how amazing he is as a person.
“He has always remained humble, kind and down to earth. I knew that if we as a coaching staff at Ingalls could get him down for just a day, it would be a day that not only the kids would remember for the rest of their lives, but us as a staff as well.”
According to Pelischek, the majority of the drills Grissom ran during camp dealt with the importance of using hands while in a defensive position. Other than that, Grissom mainly stressed the significance in having a hard-working attitude and encouraged the kids to push themselves every single day.
“One of the most important things we did for our players was have roughly an hour long question-and-answer session in my classroom,” said Pelischek. “They realized that in front of them was this man who went to school 3 hours away from them and now is a super bowl champion all because of hard work. Geneo explained that there is no substitution for hard work, then went on to tell them that there are no limitations to where they could go. That was an extremely special moment for not only them, but myself.”
According to Teeter, Grissom took the time to learn each player’s name, answer all of their questions and sign numerous t-shirts, shoes and equipment. Teeter stated that he admired Grissom not only for his knowledge of the game, but his humbled outlook.
“Geneo came in and was very outgoing and wanted to experience all Ingalls had to offer,” said Teeter. “He would spend as much time as needed with the kids and also joke around with them and the coaching staff. Even when we went to the Ingalls Cafe to eat, he would take time and talk to everyone that stopped at the table.”
Though it seemed that the players were the ones in awe with Grissom, the admiration actually went both ways, according to Pelischek.
“Geneo was extremely impressed with the team and the students. He said to me, ‘these boys were some of the best kids I have ever had the pleasure to work with,’” he said. “It was a moment that moved myself, Coach Teeter and Coach Leverett to smile from ear to ear. Multiple times he pulled me aside and said ‘you guys have something really special going on here.’”
Word got out that Geneo spent time with other schools in the Gray County area, however Pelischek confirmed that Grissom only spent his time in Ingalls on Friday before heading back home on Saturday.
After a very successful week of football camp, Teeter stated that he fully intends on bringing Grissom back for next year’s camp if he is able.
“We will see if we can get Geneo's schedule to line up again next year,” he said. “If we can get it lined up, I would have him back in a heartbeat. Geneo is one of the greatest guys in the NFL. He is a great role model and a very respectful young man.”
Until then, the Ingalls football team will continue to work hard for this upcoming season, this time with an enlightened “Grissom” perspective.