By Cody Soto
DALLAS — This week is much more than Cotton Bowl preparation, practices and media interviews for No. 5 Baylor football. It’s a time to brighten a child’s day as well.
The Bears took time out of their schedule preparing for their fifth consecutive bowl game to visit the Children’s Medical Center at Dallas on Monday afternoon. Both Baylor and Michigan State’s teams were able to visit local hospitals today in conjunction with the Cotton Bowl Classic.
“Today is about the kids, and we think it is really awesome to see the teams take time out of their schedules to come out and put a smile on the kids’ faces,” said Gary Melliere, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company General Manager of Sponsorship and Marketing Assets.
Baylor arrived at the Children’s Medical Center around 4 p.m. Monday afternoon and interacted with children of various ages in the hotel’s lobby area. Players signed posters, hats and footballs as well as helped the patients color and paint pictures.
The time spent at the hospital means a lot to the football team. Junior running back Silas Nacita walked around with a smile on his face knowing he and his team were bringing joy to the patients.
“Just to see these kids and all the smiles on their faces amongst all the tension from the bowl game and the stress, it’s good to take a pause,” Nacita said. ”It puts life into perspective where you can find joy in the littlest of things.”
The impact Baylor brought into the hospital was felt by many student athletes. Several players are role models for the children, and it has served as a great reminder for the entire team, freshman kicker Chris Callahan said.
“It’s great to be reminded that there’s children out there that aren’t as fortunate as us while we are in town celebrating the Cotton Bowl,” Callahan said. “It’s great being able to come here and make their day, make their season.”
As senior quarterback Bryce Petty and several of his teammates finished their guest appearances on the hospital’s radio show sponsored by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, Petty couldn’t help but smile as he looked out and saw the look on the kids’ faces.
For Petty, no one should call him a hero, he said. The title should be reversed.
“I’ve been around kids who have been in hospitals, and I can tell you that I am not a hero,” Petty said. “Those kids are the true heroes with what they have to go through every day.”
As Baylor football prepares to take the field on New Year’s Day, this hospital visit will be a big motivation to finish strong. Being able to play football is a real blessing, Petty said.
“In life, like football, there are a lot of challenges, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and today I hope to bring these kids a little light and brighten up their day,” he said. “I want them to know that this isn’t all there is. There is something more and you have to believe that there is, in order for them to know they can make it.”