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Mr. Rey goes to Washington

Vincent Rey

Linebacker Vincent Rey isn't wasting any time.

After spending the last month at OTAs with the Bengals AFC North security team of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (head coach Marvin Lewis), Secretary of Defense (defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer), and a special ops exec (linebackers coach Paul Guenther), Rey has booked to Capitol Hill for the first week of his vacation.

He left Tuesday for the United Way Youth Empowerment Summit at American University with two students from Cincinnati's Taft High School in the NFL's effort with the United Way to bring awareness to the dropout rate.

Then on Wednesday, Rey and other players from around the league meet with their local representatives about educational needs, and Rey is scheduled to talk to a potential vice presidential nominee in United States Senator Rob Portman and Ohio's other senator, Sherrod Brown, as well as Rep. Steve Chabot.

"Never met one," Rey says of his meeting with the national legislators. "I'll probably get nervous when they're in front of me, but I'm not nervous yet."    

Rey is part of Team NFL, a volunteer group of players from around the league committed to recruiting one million readers, tutors and mentors. On Tuesday, Rey and players such as Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs, Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty, and Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings spend the day bonding with their students before culminating Wednesday with what Rey calls a "Super March" to the Capitol to meet the lawmakers. He'll be walking with Taft's Naesean Calhoun and Tyesha Kirk.

"I wasn't quite sure what it was about, but when I found out it was trying to cut the dropout rate in half by 2018, I wanted to go immediately," Rey says. "When I heard education was involved, that's what I'm all about."

Rey, an undrafted free agent out of Duke who has stuck with the Bengals the past two seasons with a brew of brains and speed on special teams and at backup WILL backer, didn't get drafted into this campaign, either. He's been around whenever Lewis has called on his men for his foundation's "Learning is Cool" program and he was here early for this one.

Calhoun and Kirk were part of a Taft class of about 30 that wrote essays on how they would cut the drop-out rate and won a tour of Paul Brown Stadium, where Rey and Lewis spoke to them.

Now, Rey is going to be listening to Calhoun and Kirk on a trip where high-achieving students got the nod.

"I want to hear what they have to say," Rey says. "I'm not going to be doing much talking. At least at first. I want to find out how they've been so successful."

Rey, 24, goes to the Capitol with plenty of ideas about cutting the dropout rate. A University Scholar Athlete from the National Football Foundation while pulling a 3.5 grade-point average to get his sociology and theater degree at Duke, Rey is mulling a master's in education administration.

"The answer to me is twofold," Rey says. "Education starts within the home. The schools should be thinking of ways to stay in contact with the parents to keep them involved. Number two, kids spend more time at school than home (in extracurricular activities) and public schools have to find ways to make sure they have the right number of teachers and be prepared to give kids those after-school opportunities."

Rey knows what role money plays. After going to Bayside High School, he left his home in Far Rockaway, N.Y. to spend a year playing at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, and saw the difference in a private school education. But whether it was at Bayside, or Mercersburg, or in grade school, Rey's parents were always pushing school on him and his younger brother.

It was only natural since his mother, Caldine, is a guidance counselor at a Brooklyn school. Plus, his father, Lemuel, whose parents came from the Caribbean nation of Anguilla, is a first generation American who has been driving education as hard, as he has been driving the A train for the past 23 years under Manhattan.

"They've always stressed that education is the biggest thing you need in life to be a success," Rey says. "Right up until the eighth grade I would go to the library every day after school. I had no choice. It was about a block from our house and that's where my parents sent us. I'd have a library volunteer and then I'd go to Pop Warner practice. I started playing when I was seven."

The library trips ended after eighth grade because Rey decided to go to high school in Bayside, a rattling four-hour round trip on the train because it was a school with a blue-chip reputation for academics and football.

"I haven't decided what I want to do yet," says Rey, who is already on the Paul Brown Plan and preparing for what the Bengals founder called "life's work" after football.

Whenever that is.

Rey has talked about going back to The City to be a principal, but he knows there are other options.

"I don't know if it will be coaching and teaching, or going into administration and being something like an athletic director," he says. "But it will be in education."

Now there's no question that the NFL and United Way already have a mentor for two more children because Rey says he's ready to be there for Calhoun and Kirk.

"I'm not sure what's going to happen after we get back, but if they want me to mentor them that would be great; I'll do it," he says. "Whatever I can do to help."

Rey figures it's been about 15 years since his one trip to D.C. All he can barely remember is staring at the White House.

"We were standing outside the gates looking in," says Rey, now headed inside down the street to The Hill.

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