LAYTON -- Students at Crestview Elementary got to play football with Utah Blaze football players Friday morning instead of going to class.
The school's PTA organized a Back to Football Friday party in conjunction with an annual nationwide contest held by the National Football League.
The NFL offers a $10,000 health and wellness grant to 34 schools that compete by holding a celebration on Sept. 9 to commemorate the upcoming football season.
Crestview's PTA documented the event with photos and will submit them in an attempt to win the grand prize, which includes an NFL team celebration. They also will submit essays explaining how their school would benefit from the grant.
"I'm a huge football nut, so I decided I wanted to do something fun with football," said PTA president Jennifer Hunt.
The kids were thrilled with the arrival of Utah Blaze mascot, Torch the tiger, and Utah Blaze players Will Mulder, Michael Lewis, Caesar Rayford and Antonio Marcisse.
The players ran football drills with the kids and showed them the joy of being outdoors and active. Kids were taught how to throw a football through a Hula Hoop, high-step through tires, weave their way through cones and play hot potato with a football.
"This is a blast. I could do this all day long. I'm enjoying myself," said Marcisse, who plays center for the Blaze.
The school encouraged students to wear their favorite team colors or jerseys as part of the party.
Third-grader Marquise Huffaker made his own custom shirt for the event. He used a white T-shirt and markers to create his own jersey complete with his last name, the number 20 and a Chicago Bears helmet.
"This is awesome," Marquise said, waiting his turn to hop through tires.
While the kids were focused on the fun and games, teachers, administration and PTA members could see the benefits of the children learning to play outdoors and be active.
"This is just so exciting. What a great opportunity for our kids to participate in organized football games that are centered on fitness and learn things that they can do to play outside of school, active play that's not video games," said Crestview Principal Lori Hawthorne.
Hawthorne also has her eye on the $10,000 prize that the school could win and listed multiple ways it could benefit the school: pedometers for each student, heart-rate monitors for the physical education classes and an additional quarter-mile track around the playground.
She explained how the kids could use the pedometers to see how far they walk in a day, and then use their math skills to convert steps to miles. The school has many long hallways and an outdoor quarter-mile track, potentially enabling students to take thousands of steps a day, she said.
Heart-rate monitors would benefit students by helping them better understand their fitness level, she said. The monitors would also help them determine how hard they need to push their bodies to get benefits from exercise.
Hawthorne praised the benefits of physical exercise and said it can improve a student's academic performance.
The students also had plenty of ideas about where to spend the money: a new swing set, dirt bikes, horses, dogs and a water party every Friday.
Third-grader Laval Stephens was excited about getting to play football instead of going to class. He said he would like it if every day were Football Friday.
Second-grader Braxten Wyne agreed, saying, "I love football."