Packer star shares advice with Belleair 5th-graders

Brynn Harvey's visit was a special treat.

By Demorris A. Lee, Times Staff Writer
Published March 13, 2008

CLEARWATER - His gridiron opponents may know him as a tough and ruthless competitor, but Brynn Harvey couldn't keep the gigantic smile off his face Friday afternoon.

Belleair Elementary fifth-graders cheered in amazement as they watched a DVD of the Largo High School running back pulling defenders into the end zone.

"You see that stiff arm?" yelled one boy, as he imitated the move on the television screen.

"He burnt him down the sideline," added another.

"Now that's a real running back," a third shouted.

"Touchdown!" filled the modular classroom every time Harvey entered the end zone on the screen.

Harvey's smile was so big his eyes squinted.

"It's exciting to see how the kids react," said Harvey, 18. "I've never seen anybody cheer to my tape. It gave me chills."

With the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test next week, Jesse Kiebzak, a Belleair Elementary fifth-grade teacher, wanted to give his students some incentive. Many of the students are athletes, so Kiebzak invited Harvey, who led Largo High School to its best football season since the school opened in 1914, to speak to the class.

The Packers finished 13-1 and Harvey set the Pinellas County record for most yards rushing in a single season with 2,581. He earned a football scholarship to the University of Central Florida this fall.

"They've come a long way this year and they've made great strides and have done a great job academically," Kiebzak said of the students. "FCAT should be afraid of us."

Wearing a striped polo shirt and cargo shorts, Harvey discussed the importance of staying in school. He said he was always in the principal's office for the wrong reasons during his freshman and sophomore years. Then the football coaches spoke to him about his potential.

"I worked real hard," he told the students. "And you have to have good grades. Grades are your ticket to get into sports."

But the biggest caution came about drugs.

"You have got to stay away from drugs," Harvey warned. "Drugs will get you nowhere. Drugs and violence will cause you to lose your scholarship. They will cause you to lose everything. You have to stay focused and stay away from drugs."

The fifth-graders had loads of questions for the local football star.

"What did you dream of becoming when you were growing up?" one asked.

"A fireman," Harvey replied.

"Have you ever missed a game?" asked another student.

"In Little League. None after that," Harvey replied.

Harvey played quarterback on the playground as the class divided into teams.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or 445-4174.