It is only March and the offseason conditioning program doesn't officially start until the end of the month but that hasn't stopped Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Mike Peterson from visiting Jacksonville Municipal Stadium each month.
Peterson spent time at the stadium this week to do work with his foundation. The Mike Peterson Foundation honors 12 students each month as part of its "Just Read It" program, a reading incentives program developed in partnership with Duval County Schools. Students in grades three through eight have the opportunity each month to be named a Star of the Month, honoring their achievements in reading.
Peterson plays host each month to the winners on a VIP tour of the stadium which includes a peek inside the locker room and an opportunity to step on the playing field. The event concludes with Peterson distributing a personalized award to each student.
"It's definitely rewarding," Peterson said. "We have been doing it all year without letting the media know. Hopefully the message will get to the kids when they see the news and will pick up a book and start reading."
Peterson created the Mike Peterson Foundation as a means of giving back to his hometown of Alachua and his NFL hometown of Jacksonville. The Foundation's mission is to support families in need in the community and to stimulate the positive development of youth through football, academic and other outreach projects. For additional information, visit www.mikepeterson54.com
Peterson missed the final six regular season games of 2007 and both postseason games with a broken hand. He said he is fully healthy now and is looking forward to meeting his new teammates that were brought in during free agency.
"It's a blessing when you bring in veteran players, guys that have played in the league," Peterson said. "Before, we brought in guys to plug holes. I think now we are bringing in guys to make that next step to the big dance."
Until then, Peterson is looking forward to rewarding the April winners.
"It's just a small thing that I can do to help the kids and encourage them in school," Peterson said.