EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings kicker Greg Joseph and punter Ryan Wright use math every day, calculating distances, angles and other related components that help them succeed on the football field.
Last Tuesday, Joseph and Wright helped 35 students from ACES (Athletes Committed to Educating Students) use math to participate in a football-themed lesson — with an assist from Microsoft.
Microsoft donated 35 Surface Pro devices to ACES while the Vikings and the NFL Foundation presented a $15,000 check to the program.
"We are constantly looking for ways to make our technology available to help support and amplify the great work that the Minnesota Vikings are doing for their local community," Microsoft Director of Partnerships with the NFL James Bernstrom said.
ACES Executive Director Christina Saunders added they're extremely grateful for the donations by Microsoft, the Vikings and the NFL.
"It's just absolutely incredible," Saunders said. "A lot of our youth go to school and live in under-resourced communities and don't have access to some of these devices, so to have a cutting-edge device like the Microsoft Surface laptop is just absolutely incredible and will really go a long way with their learning. That's what we try to do, get them really excited about learning."
The kids went through an NFL combine event that featured a 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jump, cone drills, punting and throwing accuracy. The students then logged their times and distances into the devices.
"They're going to use that data in the ACES classroom on their laptops to graph and do some statistical analysis in a really fun way because it's the activities that they did," Saunders said. "That's such an awesome thing for a kid to be able to come and actually do that with players and then use it to solve some math problems."
Saunders added the mission of ACES is to "help close the academic opportunity gap and they focus on math and social emotional skills through the lens of sports."
View photos of students in the ACES (Athletes Committed to Educating Students) Program as they were surprised with laptops from the Minnesota Vikings and Microsoft.
Microsoft Managing Director for the modern work business for U.S. health care Jeff Mutschler said it's incredibly important to try to tackle the digital divide that's being experienced in the country.
"To be able to connect and reach kids at a young age like this and prepare them and give them the skills that are going to be needed for this digital world, it's going to get more and more important as we go forward," Mutschler said.
"There's so many things you can do with [the Surface Pro devices]," Mutschler added. "I think it's really going to add to their learning."
Before the kids took the field to participate in the drills, Joseph and Wright fielded some questions. Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah even joined in and spoke to the kids about the importance of math in his everyday role at his position.
Saunders was inspired by Adofo-Mensah's message.
"Kwesi did an amazing job talking about how he actually practically uses math every day and that's just so inspiring for our middle school youth because sometimes as a middle schooler you're not always aware of the fact that this is going to be really useful down the road," Saunders said. "And to have it come from the mouths of football players and people they admire goes a little bit farther than when their teachers or parents might tell them the same thing."
Wright said it was unique getting to listen to Adofo-Mensah's story.
"Kwesi's a really great dude, a really hands-on GM," Wright said. "I think everyone has a really good relationship with him in the building in their own way and just hearing his story about how he was a finance guy; I started out as a finance guy but I decided to change my major after my first year. It's really cool to see that we have a GM that cares about this stuff."
Wright added the ACES program is a great way to help connect education with athletics.
"I think it's really cool that they're kind of being taught math through a sports perspective," Wright said. "If I had a program like this growing up, I definitely probably would have been a better student, been better at math growing up so it's really cool."