by Con Chapman
KALISPELL, Montana. Spring football is over at Western Montana University, which means there’s nothing for players to do between now and August except lift weights and run. “Some of these guys turn into lunkheads when school’s out,” says Joe Diggs, head coach. “I need my guys to be mentally sharp so they can handle the playbook next fall.”
So every spring Diggs organizes a “Score With Scholastics!” day where players visit a local school to interact with students. “It’s a great opportunity for us,” says Mike Zyglywdmski, a red-shirt freshman from Chicago who sat out last season recovering from vowel implant surgery. “These kids really keep us on our toes!”
The hulking tackle sits down with Katy Dunham, a sixth grader at Evil Knievel Middle School, to go over her science material. “Atoms are cool!” Zyglywdmski says as he slowly turns textbook pages. “They’re really small!” he says, conveying a sense of wonder.
“Yes but molecules are better because they have atoms in them,” the freckle-faced young girl squeals with delight. “Water has two hydrogen and one oxygen atom.”
“What’s a molecule?” the 260-pounder known simply as “Z” to his teammates asks, confused.
“A molecule is when two or more atoms join together!” Dunham explains. “You should learn that—it might help you on an exam.”
Across the room LeRon Glover, Jr., a sophomore letterman at tailback, reads with several youngsters from “Twenty Seconds to Go!” a youth sports thriller that the school’s librarian purchased in the hope that the school’s sports-mad young boys would read it and develop a love of literature.
“The Falcons were down 21-14 when ‘Chip’ Bohammer called his teammates into the huddle, to hopefully call a play that would pull them within one point,” Glover reads, and the hand of young Timmy Grogan shoots up. “Yes?” Glover asks.
“That’s poorly written,” the young boy says. “There’s a split infinitive, you don’t need a comma after a non-restrictive clause, and the author should use the adjective ‘hopeful’—not ‘hopefully.’”
“Why’s that?” Glover says with a sly smile, amused that a sixth-grader would challenge something between the covers of a book.
“’Hopefully’ is an adverb, which modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb,” the boy says, not backing down. “The players are the ones who are hopeful, not ‘call.’”
“Hmm,” Glover says, looking up at Sue Ellen Parsons, the class’s teacher. “Is he right about that?”
“I believe he is,” she says after a moment’s thought. “Sports books have historically been a harmful influence on both boys’ grammar and their literary tastes.”