Xplorers visit Poplar-White Station Library
memphis-Memphis Xplorers players Lavante Epson and Elgin Hicks visited the Poplar-White Station library on Tuesday, July 5 as part of the library's summer reading program.
The players began by involving the children in an interactive story about a fictional Xplorers game. While Community Relations representative Stacie White read the story, the two players held up cards to cue the children to say a phrase when certain words were mentioned. For instance, when "Xplorers" was mentioned, the children said "Down, Set, Hut!" and when "Fans" was mentioned, the children said, "Go Xplorers!"
After reading the story, the two players introduced themselves and answered questions from the children. Epson, who plays full back/linebacker, is from Greenville, Miss. and attended the University of Tennessee - Martin. Hicks, who was is from Port St. Charlotte, Fla., attended the University of Florida.
"In order to play football, you have to go to school and you have to keep a good grade point average - in other words, you have to get good grades," Epson said. "You have to listen to your parents too."
"Have you ever conked heads?" one child asked.
"Every day," Epson said, adding that this is the least favorite part of his job. "Have you ever seen two rams butting heads? Well, that is exactly what it is like for me. I play linebacker and I have to go through the fullback to get to the quarterback. He's not going to just let me through so I have to run him over to get back there. Elgin's job as the wide receiver, on the other hand, is to catch the ball and run."
The players explained some differences between arena football and outdoor football, such as the smaller dimensions of the field (50 feet by 28.5 feet), eight players versus 11, the walls surrounding the fields which constitute out-of-bounds and the balls in the stands.
Elgin and Hicks also explained that the dimensions of the field means that the game moves faster - more points are scored and the quick turnover of ball possession means players play both ways, offense and defense.
The players talked about travel - they play teams in New York, Louisiana, California and Alabama to name a few - and their record of 10-2, currently the best record in the league. The af2 championship game will be played in Bossier City, La. on August 27 and will be aired on Fox Sports Network.
Community Relations Representative Stacie White pointed out there is a great variety of jobs available in the sports industry other than being player, from broadcasting and writing to corporate sales.
"Not everyone can play professional sports, but you can always work for a professional team," White said. "I always knew I wanted to work in professional sports. I was talking to Daniel here and he said he wanted to be a doctor. But he could be a doctor for a sports team and treat players.
"Or he could do what I do and work in community relations, the most fun job in professional sports because you get to go out in the community and hang out with kids. You can sell tickets, too, but you only get to talk to adults all day long, and that's no fun in my book," White said with a touch of humor.
After answering questions, the players gave the children the opportunity to try on the equipment. When everyone who wanted to had tried on the shoulder pads, jersey and helmet and looked at an official game ball, the guys signed autographs and passed out vouchers for children to attend an upcoming game, courtesy of the team.
Hicks said watching the children try on the equipment brought back fond memories.
"I remember when I was that age, trying on my uncle's equipment," Hicks said. "Of course, it just swallowed me, but when you put on the pads and jersey and helmet, it made you feel like Superman. You could do anything."
The Memphis Xplorers next home game is Saturday, July 9 against the Tulsa Talons at 7 p.m. at the DeSoto Civic Center. The Xplorers are 10-2 on the season and in first place in the Mid-West Division of the National Conference. Single game tickets start as low as $7 and can be purchased by calling 662-342-1755, visiting the DeSoto Civic Center box office, or by logging onto www.TicketMaster.com today. To see the Xplorers in your neighborhood, contact your local library.
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