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Visit to Ft. Leavenworth especially meaningful for Chiefs Crennel, LBs Campbell and Johnson

Posted May 23, 2012

Romeo Crennel , Caleb Campbell and Derrick Johnson recall military past while visiting students at Patton Junior High School


Depending on what base his father was stationed at, Romeo Crennel’s childhood memories can be sorted into different three-year segments. From Fort Still in Oklahoma to Fort Hood in Texas, the Chiefs’ head coach was never in one place long enough for it to be considered his home town.

Crennel knows that lifestyle can be difficult for the children of military members. So on Wednesday, Crennel and the Chiefs gave military kids something to cheer about when they visited Patton Junior High School in Leavenworth, Kansas for a special “Play 60” event.

Crennel addressed students before the event and thanked them for their resiliency.

“I’m an old army brat myself,” Crennel told the auditorium filled with military students before the event. “I know what you guys go through when you move from place to place, and I understand it isn’t easy.”

Crennel thanked those students with a full-on Chiefs experience.  For the hour-long event, one hundred students from the military base were coached up by KC Wolf, the Chiefs Cheerleaders and eight members of the Chiefs linebacking corps on healthy habits and exercise.

Those players included Jovan Belcher, Caleb Campbell, Cory Greenwood, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Gabe Miller, Brandon Siler, and Andy Studebaker.

The trip was particularly rewarding for Campbell, a current lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

In 2008, Campbell became the first NFL draftee from West Point since 1997 when the Detroit Lions drafted him in the seventh round. The U.S. Military Academy ruled he had to serve two years before he could play professional football, so Campbell waited until 2010 to play his rookie season.

Campbell became a Chief a season after his two-year hiatus. And at the “Play 60” event, the second year linebacker said he’s in a unique position to act as a role model from both a football and military background.

“It’s been a long journey, but a special one to me,” said Campbell. “Coming from a military family and knowing how much these kids look up to the players in the National Football League is humbling.  I have the opportunity to be on both sides of the road.”

Leavenworth deputy superintendent Geri Parscale said the “Play 60” provided students with role models and a much-needed lift. Once the players left the bus and entered Patton’s gymnasium, Parscale could tell her students felt “a little more at home.”

“It was like someone finally gave them the recognition they deserve,” said Parscale. “They sacrifice so much, and when the Chiefs walked in, their eyes lit up.”

Sixth grader Nick Kucsick was one of the students Parscale noticed a change in. On Sunday, Kucsick was relegated to a wheelchair after severely spraining his ankle in a game of backyard football.

But nothing—not even a wheelchair—could keep Kucsick from meeting his favorite Chief players.

Like Crennel and Campbell, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson was part of a military family. His father, Wayne A. Johnson, earned a Navy Accommodation Medal for his acts of heroism during the Vietnam War.

Today, Johnson is a football hero to students like Kucsick. And in the eyes of the All-Pro player, seeing those students enjoy themselves and be healthy in the process made the trip worth it.

 “The influence we have over these kids being a Chiefs player is great and it’s something we have to take advantage of,” said Johnson. “It’s just a great time to give back to this community.”

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