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Friday, May 6, 2016

NFL linebacker goes back to elementary

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Playing with the kids - Josh Stamer, an NFL linebacker and Sutherland native, played a little recess football when he visited the Franklin Elementary fifth graders in LeMars last week. Stamer visited after his cousin's son invited him to school via a letter. Photo by Madelene Biesantz
By Madelene Biesantz, Editor

Josh Stamer usually plays for the NFL's Buffalo Bills in New York.

On Tuesday Feb. 26, he was playing for the fifth graders at Franklin Elementary during noon recess.

The 6'3" linebacker visited the Le Mars school after he received a fan letter from his cousin's son, a fifth grader named Alex Sudtelgte.

"I just asked him if he had a good Christmas and wondered if he could come to visit our class," said Sudtelgte, son of Richard and Tammy of Le Mars.

Josh Stamer shared stories of life in the NFL and gave advice to fifth graders in LeMars recently. Photo by Madelene Biesantz
So Stamer, a Sutherland native, surprised Alex and the Franklin Elementary fifth graders while he was back in the area visiting family.

"All right, you can ask me any questions you want," he told the students.

A fifth grader raised his hand.

"Are you going to play football with us at recess?" the boy asked.

Yes, Stamer said, he would.

The class cheered.

But Stamer also had a serious message for the fifth graders.

"Never give up," he said. "Always chase after your dreams."

He's speaking from experience. His own path to the NFL was not an easy one. After graduating from South O'Brien High School, he headed to the University of South Dakota wanting to play college basketball. But the coaches told him he wasn't a good fit for the team.

"Then education became my number one priority," he said.

Education and a little game called football.

He joined the university's team, graduated in 2001, then nosed his way into the NFL, joining the New York Giants.

"I think the best game was the first one, when I realized I had actually accomplished this. I was playing in the top league," he said.

When he was cut from the Giants' program, he didn't hang up his cleats. Instead, he headed across the Atlantic to play in the NFL Europe. He returned to the U.S. and joined the Seattle Seahawks, then faced another cut. Still, he stuck it out and claimed a spot on the Buffalo Bills' roster. Now his goal is to play in the Pro Bowl.

"Don't waste a day of your life," he told the fifth graders. "Always be working to get closer to your dreams."

The best part about playing in the NFL, Stamer said, is the competition.

"You're going against the best athletes in the world. It's a pretty physical sport. You've got to be on the top of your game, mentally and physically," he said.

And yes, he told the fifth graders, he's made defensive hits on Tom Brady a few times.

Off the field, though, he described the NFL as a "fraternity of brothers."

"After the game, we're all friends. We respect each other's abilities," he said.

His favorite player? Detroit Lions' running back Barry Sanders.

"He's a very humble guy," he said. "Every time he scored he just handed the ball to the officials."

And what about pressure to use steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs? Stamer said it's out there but he doesn't feel it.

"I think it's the group you hang around with," he said. "The guys know it's not part of my character."

He asked the fifth graders if they had any more questions.

"What was your favorite subject in school?" one asked.

Math, he said. He used to not like history but now he loves it, he added.

"A college football coach told me that education is one thing that can never be taken away from you," he said.

Favorite color? Red.

Favorite movie star? Halle Berry.

Pets? Two Rhodesian Ridgeback show dogs.

Future plans? Play NFL ball for two or three more years.

"My contract with the Bills is up on Friday," he said of the team which last won American Football League titles in 1964 and 1965. "I think it will be best to try to move on to bigger and better things. I think I can be more."

Another student raised her hand.

"Do you have to sign a lot of autographs?"

Yes, he said, but he didn't mind doing it.

"Have you ever put on a disguise?"

"No," he laughed. "I'm not that popular."

He admitted to having humble beginnings. One student asked if he played football at recess when he was growing up.

He grinned.

"That's all I did," he said. "So stick with it."

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