Eric Kendricks joined forces with Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria 'Rondo' Arradondo and former Vikings punter Greg Coleman on Tuesday to read to young people between the ages of 4 and 6 at the North Community YMCA.
MINNEAPOLIS –Eric Kendricks joined forces with Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria 'Rondo' Arradondo and former Vikings punter Greg Coleman on Tuesday to read to young people between the ages of 4 and 6 at the North Community YMCA.
"It was cool; it brought me back a little bit and allowed me to be a kid for a second," said Kendricks.
The third-year linebacker, of course, chose a fitting book: *Goodnight Football. *Kendricks showed each illustration to the group, demonstrated the "oohs and ahhs" of the crowd at a football game and pointed out specific instances he could relate to – "sacking the quarterback; that's what I try to do."
Following Kendricks, Arradondo read We're All Wonders, *which promotes the value of every individual, despite differences; and Coleman read *I Am Peace.
Arradondo was born and raised in Minneapolis and appreciated the opportunity to get involved in such a fun activity that celebrated reading from a young age and promoted the "Little Library" initiative that involves sharing and swapping books with community members.
He emphasized that the YMCA location has been an "anchor" to North Minneapolis.
"Years ago I was a school resource officer, so really being able to connect with our youth is so important, and to be a representative of the Minneapolis Police Department and teaming up with the Minnesota Vikings, another great anchor to our community, it's just wonderful to be able to give back and see their smiling faces," Arradondo said. "And it really just goes back to the reasons I chose to be in the profession I am today, to serve our community.
"[We're really trying] to get children to understand there's fun in reading, also the skills that you learn in reading, so really to try to just bring that home and let them know that it's cool to read," Arradondo continued. "It's nice to be able to have that book in your hand and see their expressions as you're turning through the pages."
Kendricks is a familiar face in Minnesota, and not only for his contributions on the football field. Since being drafted by the Vikings in 2015, he has made an effort to be involved in various community events and specifically causes that fight against hunger insecurity.
Tuesday's event was different than others Kendricks has done, but it was one he believes is incredibly important.
"I just feel like there's so much negativity surrounding police and minorities in general in America," Kendricks said, "and I just I wanted to do my part and work with people who really want to help with the communities and [feel strongly] about it. I knew I just had to do something with it."
Kendricks and Coleman signed autographs and traded high-fives and fist bumps with the youth before handing out packets of NFL trading cards as a unique souvenir from the afternoon.
Coleman knelt down to speak with some of the young people and spoke with them about the importance of reading.
"Reading is fundamental," Coleman said. "Having been an educator, a teacher, even before I started in the NFL, realizing the importance of education. And if it starts early enough, you know, I've always been told that if you can get something in your head and in your heart, nobody can take it away from you – regardless of what occupation you go into, regardless of what you do, it's the foundation of life.
"So to start with these young people, so early, with a role model like Eric and with the Vikings supporting, the Chief supporting this type of an event, it shows that people in the community care about kids," Coleman added. "And we as an organization, we as individuals … understand the importance of putting your arms around a young person and letting them know that it's going to be all right."
Members of the police force and Vikings players alike, no matter how different their occupations, have public-facing careers that come to be recognized by the community.
To Kendricks, it's important to never take that for granted.
"I think we're in positions of being role models to these kids. You might not ask for that, and it may just come with the job title, but at the end of the day, it is a responsibility that we carry," Kendricks said. "It's awesome to see these guys share the same vision and come out here and read to the kids."