On a drizzly Tuesday off day for the Cleveland Browns, the team's starting offensive line volunteered to #give10 with their wives and girlfriends at the Cleveland Kids in* *Need Resource Center.
Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, Joel Bitonio, John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz unloaded school supplies and stocked shelves with pencils, binders and clipboards. The converted warehouse is stocked full of every school supply imaginable – all donated. Backpacks, classroom sets of novels and cell phone cases serve as the luxury items.
"This resource center is a tremendous charity within the Cleveland area," Thomas said. "It directly benefits kids and education. And those are things we feel strongly about as Cleveland Browns. We want Cleveland to be a strong community."
Mike Pettine and others around Berea have often referred to Browns players as the "football nerds" of the building. And these 300-pounders developed their classroom habits way before entering the NFL.
Mack, Bitonio and Schwartz all enjoyed math the most as young kids. Bitonio loved solving word problems on math tests in elementary school and carried the passion into college with him at Nevada. Bitonio still remembers everything he was taught in an economics class and was especially fascinated by the concept of supply and demand.
Cleveland's left guard knows how important having a teacher who cares can mean to a young student.
"My fifth grade teacher Ms. Cheeks was special," Bitonio said. "She always made sure we were learning and having fun at the same time. She helped show us the way."
To qualify to shop at the Kids In Need Resource Center, a teacher must be at a school where 65 percent of the students are eligible for reduced-cost lunches. The center sees around 40 teachers per day every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Poverty's hand is a heavy one in Cleveland's school districts. Last year, the center saw more than 2,000 different teachers enter its doors.
Greco knows what these teachers go through; his wife, Jodi, teaches K-3 in Youngstown. As a young student, Greco's forte was science, chemistry in particular. Need help determining what's the independent and dependent variable is in an experiment? The Browns' right guard has you covered.
"Once you get old enough you get to start playing with chemicals and lighting stuff on fire," Greco said, a marketing major in college at Toledo. "I also liked the subject when we learned how earth was formed."
As for Thomas?
"American history was my favorite," the left tackle said. "I liked all the war topics and I got straight A's."
It was only an hour of their time, but the Browns offensive line and their wives made a difference -- a great illustration of what the Browns' First and 10 program is all about. They came together for a cause they believed in, had some laughs, went to work and helped make the Cleveland community a better place.