Crist, Opurum Read to Children at Hilltop

Sept. 13, 2012

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – If their KU football jerseys and sheer size didn’t already have the audience’s attention, Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum left no doubt – and no face without a smile – at Hilltop Child Development Center Thursday morning. Opurum set off a series of giggles with a loud and surprising roar three pages into “The Very Cranky Bear,” the second of two books he and fellow captain Dayne Crist read to the three- and four-year-olds in the Cottontail Preschool Room.

Seated at the 50-yard line of a taped, makeshift football field carpet, Opurum and Crist read to and visited with children for about an hour. After brief introductions, Crist read “The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark,” a story of friendship in which Mr. Fish helps Ms. Clam find a lost pearl despite a fear of the dark. Opurm’s book was also friendship themed, telling the story of Lion, Zebra, Moose and Sheep, four friends trying to appease a cranky bear.

“It was awesome – it’s great anytime you can go and hang out with younger kids and be a positive role model for them,” Crist, KU’s quarterback said after the reading session. “I remember as a young kid that I always looked up to athletes that I watched play and it’s just great being able to give back and be part of the community.

“It’s such a rewarding experience. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to come out here and speak to the kids today and just hangout and read and do some fun stuff in the class with them. I’m very thankful for the opportunity and feel like I got more out of it than they did.”

Opurum’s performance, or book content, was the crowd favorite, a fact he was quick to remind Crist about after the event was over. The children were encouraged to wear KU shirts or jerseys and one preschooler had a No. 35 jersey on – Opurum’s number.

“It was a whole lot of fun,” Opurum said. “It was a good chance to step away from the seriousness of football and enjoy the little time off that we have off and get a chance to read to these kids who really look up to us.

“I think they liked the book I read a little bit better than Dayne’s, so that right there was kind of funny. It was just a good opportunity for me, I’m glad they enjoyed us coming here. I had a lot of fun and I’m sure Dayne did as well.”

Opurum and Crist will have the attention of TCU (1-0) Saturday when the duo leads the Jayhawks (1-1) into Big 12 Conference play at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m., and the game will be broadcast nationally on FX. Saturday’s contest also marks the first game for the Horned Frogs as members of the Big 12. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.