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Bills launch Play 60 Challenge at Buffalo school

Even on his off day, Preston Brown found a way to get some fieldwork in.

The Bills middle linebacker was the most active among 11 players who led students from Buffalo Public School 32 Bennett Park Montessori through football drills at JFK Park on Tuesday to celebrate the launch of this year’s Play 60 Challenge.

“With Play 60, the goal is to get kids more active, let them go outside and have fun while it’s still pretty hot out here in Buffalo,” Brown said while wiping sweat from his brow after chasing dozens of elementary-age ball carriers for almost half an hour.

Teammates Lorenzo Alexander, Colton Schmidt, Joe Webb, Robert Blanton, Reid Ferguson, Joe Banyard, Conor McDermott, Andre Holmes, Khari Lee, Orion Stewart and mascot Billy Buffalo joined Brown in running the clinic.

Bills players Reid Ferguson, Robert Blanton, Preston Brown, Joe Webb and Colton Schmidt at Tuesday's Play 60 event at Bennett Park Montessori School. (Bill Wippert/Buffalo Bills)

The players also shared healthy lifestyle tips at a pep rally and answered questions from students about their favorite snacks, exercises, dance movies and sports outside of football.

“I had always been a big kid, played defensive line in high school and at the same time had developed a lot of bad eating habits,” Alexander said. “As my role in the NFL changed and I wanted to stay here, I had to lose weight and change my habits, go cold turkey on a lot of stuff.

“It was hard but I had to do it. And now I feel better, I have more energy, I can play with my kids. It’s elongated my NFL career and after I’m done playing I won’t have excess weight that I’ll have to lose.”

Students created posters in anticipation of the Bills' visit and lined the walkway into the school to cheer the players as they arrived.

“This was the most thrilling event we’ve ever had in all the years I’ve been here,” Bennett Park principal Marianna Cecchini said. “I don’t think the kids are going to forget this for the rest of their lives. They came in so excited off that bus this morning. They could hardly contain themselves."

Partnering with the Independent Health Foundation Fitness For Kids Challenge and the American Heart Association, the Play 60 Challenge encourages students in grades 2-5 to participate in 60 minutes of physical activity each day in school or at home, eat five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, limit screen time to two hours a day and avoid sugary drinks.

“We know that physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits, and that inactive children are likely to become inactive adults – which has quickly become a leading indicator for chronic disease,” said Marc Natale, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara American Heart Association, in a news release. “This program aims to change that trajectory all while partnering with role models for an active and fun experience for all involved.”

More than 540 classrooms in 60 schools across the region are participating in the challenge. Each classroom receives a teaching guide, an activity calendar, a scoreboard to track student activity, Bills Play 60 notebooks and trading cards to use as weekly incentives.

Participating schools will have the opportunity to receive one of 10 health and wellness grants worth $1,000 each or one of 40 classroom grants worth $250 for completing the challenge. Classrooms are also eligible to win prizes including signed merchandise and an invitation to the Bills Play 60 Fitness party at the ADPRO Sports Training Center in December.

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