Fresh off of his first NFL season and the Patriots' most recent Super Bowl victory, defensive back Randall Gay has grown accustomed to answering hard-hitting questions from the media regarding the Patriots defense, his status as an undrafted rookie free agent and his ability to fill in on the Patriots' depleted secondary. So, on Sunday, it came as a bit of a relief when he was asked to field questions like, "What is your favorite animal?", "Which baseball team do you like the most?" and "Do you speak any foreign languages?"
Since the Super Bowl, Gay has given nearly 20 talks to elementary school students in his home state of Louisiana, and the 500 Medford elementary school children at Tufts University's "Read by the River" event were the latest to hear Gay speak on the importance of reading and staying in school. The event, now in its sixth year, was organized by Tufts Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus. Gay was the sixth Patriots representative to speak at the event, joining David Givens, Larry Izzo and Tom Brady who have attended in recent years.
"We have had a Patriots representative in each of the six years we have put on Read by the River", said Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, the executive director of Tufts Hillel. "It is so fantastic to see how the kids react to the players. They have always done a great job and having them speak to the children has always been one of the major highlights of the event."
After being introduced to thunderous applause by Dan Kraft, who is a trustee of Tufts University and on the governing board of Hillel, Gay spoke to the children about how his mother stressed reading and studying when he was growing up.
"When other kids were playing video games, I was usually in my room reading a book", Gay told the kids. "At first I didn't like it, but I quickly learned that staying in school and learning as much as possible was going to help me succeed in life."
Gay explained to the students that he is in a profession that doesn't guarantee anything to him, and that he made sure to graduate from college to ensure that he has something to fall back on should his football career come to an end.
"Once you learn something, nobody can take that piece of knowledge away from you," Gay told the captive audience. "I might find out tomorrow that I can't play football anymore, but I will always have my education and the little bits of information I've learned along the way."
After Gay finished his speech, he sat down and read one of his favorite children's books, "Curious George Visits the Police Station". He then entertained questions from the elementary-school aged crowd, at one point sheepishly explaining why the Chicago Cubs are his favorite baseball team instead of the Red Sox (the Cubs were the only team on television in his native Brusly, La., when he was growing up). Gay didn't leave until every child who wanted an autograph got one.
"After the Super Bowl, the kids are looking at you more," Gay said. "I think it is important, as someone who they have seen a lot on television, to show them the non-football side of me. I want them to know that they can accomplish anything, but to always focus on school and learning because that is what is going to carry them the farthest."