A Whit Christmas no dream for one school

Posted Dec 14, 2016

When they play Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12), there’ll be about 350 students from Cincinnati’s Frederick Douglass Elementary School on hand courtesy of Bengals Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

 Andrew Whitworth: Bengals-Steelers the way it should be.

Bengals-Steelers has had some not so pretty chapters in the 94-game rivalry.

You can start with the 1983 Keith Gary neck throw of Ken Anderson, then go to the broken jaws of Keith Rivers and Kevin Huber, and end with last year’s Brawl in the Paul.

But now the rivalry gives us a thing of beauty fit for the holiday season.

When they play Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12), there’ll be about 350 students from Cincinnati’s Frederick Douglass Elementary School on hand courtesy of Bengals Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

“The guy’s unbelievable. You’ve got something special there,” says Jeffrey Hall, principal of the East Walnut Hills school.

It turns out that Hall is a dyed-in-the-steel-wool Pittsburgh fan. The whole bit. Right down to his office decked out in black and gold and Terrible Towels.

So naturally when Whitworth appeared at Frederick Douglass on Dec. 6 as part of the Marvin Lewis Community Fund’s Learning is Cool program, there was a bit of gentle give-and-take. Whitworth gave Hall some and Hall gave some back and everybody had a great time.

Hall came by the Steelers honestly. He grew up in Dayton, Ohio in the ‘70s, when he watched his older brother follow The Steel Curtain.

“It was something we did as brothers,” Hall says. “We still go to games. And Pittsburgh is pretty close. It’s just something we’ve always done and still do.”

But that didn’t prevent him from hitting it off with the biggest Bengal.

“Andrew was tremendous. The kids loved him. It was a great day,” Hall said “As he was leaving he asked me, ‘How many kids do you have here?’ and I told him about 350. I thought maybe he was going to get some bumper stickers or something.”

When Whitworth walked back into the school Tuesday, the kids had no idea why he was there.

“They were just happy to see him. It had only been a week,” Hall says. “They were saying, ‘Hey, you really did come back.”’  

Not only did he come back, he came back with a donation of 350 Bengals-Steelers tickets. For a school that has 100 percent of its students on free or reduced lunch, that means Sunday is a veritable feast.

“We were just talking about it,” Hall says. “Our kids don’t get a chance to do many things or go to many places. I mean, this is huge for them.”

It has also sparked other activities. The temperature is going to be at least freezing Sunday and so Hall is looking into donations for scarves, hats, and gloves for kids that just may not have enough to warm the cold. Some of the children may not be old enough to attend, so parents or siblings or other family could get the ticket.

But Whitworth has taken care of one big logistic. He’s rented three chartered buses for the group.

All of which has one Steelers fan shaking his head in awe.

“He almost converted me,” Hall says. “For him to do all this for us is fantastic. I’m reeling down here.”

It turns out that even Bengals-Steelers can deliver  a Christmas card. A Whit Christmas.

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