Talk of football — what he’ll do for an encore after leading the NFL in catches in 2013, about his new teammate DeSean Jackson — will dominate his media sessions and appearances in the coming months, but Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon fielded questions of an entirely different variety on Friday.
Important questions such as this one: Have you ever read a chapter book?
Garcon, who has read several chapter books, was a guest at Overlook Elementary in Temple Hills, where the students were celebrating a third-place finish in the Redskins Read Book Challenge. Oaklands Elementary in Laurel and Guilford Elementary in Sterling were previously honored for finishing first and second, respectively, in the contest, which encouraged students in grades kindergarten through sixth to read at least 10 books during the school year. Fifty-seven schools from 19 counties in D.C., Maryland and Virginia participated.
Sporting his No. 88 jersey, Garcon sat in a rocking chair and, with some help from a few students, read the Dr. Seuss classic ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!’ to a classroom of 25 of Overlook’s top readers. When he finished, the questions came rapid fire.
What’s your favorite color? Do you love to read? Did you go to public libraries as a kid? Do you like to read to dogs? How does reading connect to sports?
“Knowing that they love reading at such a young age is a good thing and it’s refreshing to see that,” Garcon said afterward. “All of their questions are genuine. They don’t have any agenda.”
From the classroom, Garcon moved to the auditorium, where the rest of the school’s roughly 250 students had gathered. As the students cheered, Garcon danced his way to the stage with Overlook principal Ingrid Williams-Horton, who had kept the visit a secret for three weeks. Williams-Horton knew a Redskins player was coming, but she didn’t know it would be Garcon until Friday morning.
“We have a wonderful staff and we played ‘Hail to the Redskins’ every morning,” Williams-Horton said of how Overlook motivated students during the contest.
Garcon took more questions in the auditorium. He answered most of them with aplomb, though he blanked when one student asked him to name his favorite book. He eventually settled on an elementary school favorite, ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog,’ but later told me he enjoyed ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’
There was at least one aspiring sports writer – or maybe he was just a big football fan – among the students, and he saved one of the few non-reading related questions for last: How does it feel to play with Robert Griffin III?
“Does everyone know who Robert Griffin III is?” Garcon asked. The collective shriek that followed suggested that they did. “It’s definitely a greet feeling to play with RGIII. He’s a great quarterback; he’s a great person too, and he loves to read.”
Garcon conceded that he doesn’t do a lot of reading for pleasure, but he does monitor articles about the team and himself. After the NFL Network recently named him the 80th best player in 2013, Garcon tweeted, “I guess it’s better to be underrated than overrated.”
“It happens, you know,” Garcon said of his rating. “You’re always disappointed if you’re not number one because you work hard. It’s part of the game. If you’re not ranked number one, you’re not happy or satisfied. You always gotta do better than what you did last year and work harder and give it your all.”
The students at Overlook seemed plenty happy to have finished third in the reading challenge, though Garcon issued a subtle challenge to them, too.
“Being third place is a great honor,” he said. “I hear next year you’re going to be first.”