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NFL's Randall McDaniel, Desmond Howard thank teachers during College Football Playoff's teacher summit

School designer Christian Long speaks during the Extra Yard for Teachers Summit Saturday, Jan. 07, 2017 at the Convention Center in Tampa. The College Football Playoff Foundation is the charitable arm of the College Football Playoff and supports education and teachers across the country. Extra Yard for Teachers is the primary philanthropic initiative for the College Football Foundation. The key focus areas of the foundation are: direct provision of resources, teacher recognition, and professional development training.
Published Jan. 7, 2017

TAMPA — Randall McDaniel is an NFL hall-of-famer who spent years on the field as an offensive guard. Now he spends his days wrangling kindergartners.

During a summit for teachers on Saturday, he was asked which career is more difficult. He laughed.

"Football was easy."

As Alabama and Clemson fanatics walked the streets of Tampa awaiting Monday's big game, the College Football Playoff Foundation honored dedicated teachers. The morning focused on the "student" half of the student-athlete, as nearly 1,000 educators packed into a Tampa Convention Center auditorium to be thanked and listen to speakers during the foundation's "Extra Yard for Teachers Summit."

"When we started the College Football Playoff, we realized we needed to think about a community investment," said foundation CEO Britton Banowsky. "We talked about a lot of different causes, but education felt right."

Then, they narrowed it to teachers.

The summit has been held in tandem with the playoff weekend since the first game in 2015.

Tampa's summit included surprise visits (such as country star Clare Dunn kicking things off with a rendition of The Band's "The Weight") and passionate speakers. It was free to area teachers and also attended by those who won "teacher of the year" in their respective state or U.S. territory.

"This was an opportunity to just say thank you," Banowsky said, "and send them back into the classroom after winter break energized, thinking about education in a different way."

McDaniel wasn't the only former NFL player to make an appearance. Earlier in the program, ESPN analyst Desmond Howard took the stage to share his thanks for his own teachers, and the ones who now educate his children.

"The ones I remember most are not the ones who just stuck to their discipline," he said. "They are the ones who went beyond."

Saturday showcased the teachers who went "beyond," including Pinellas County teacher Lamar Mills. Mills, who works as a behavioral coach at Woodlawn Elementary, used his stage time to call for more diversity among teachers to better connect with students, earning a standing ovation from some in the crowd when he concluded his speech.

The U.S. teacher of the year, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, reminded her colleagues they had to empower children to be the change they want to see. Sports radio host Rachel Baribeau encouraged the educators to find blessings in their greatest fears.

Lori Bradner, a Hillsborough County teacher and NASA educator, came out in space garb, explaining that teachers are also magicians.

"You make worlds that are devoid of limitations," she told the crowd. "Teachers, that is your magic."

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale

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