After Cal football’s Thursday practice, the team gathered in the middle of the field. Taking a break from game week preparations, players and coaches gave a rowdy celebration to one of their own who had just received a prestigious honor.
Cal running back Patrick Laird has utilized his platform as a student-athlete to its fullest in the last few months, by spearheading his Summer Reading Challenge. Laird’s movement to get youth in the Bay Area and surrounding areas to find a passion for reading has earned him a spot on the Allstate & AFCA 2018 Good Works Team.
Laird joins 21 other nominees from college football teams across the country, along with one honorary coach, who are recognized for their stellar influences and impacts off the football field. Additionally, Laird is the only representative of the Pac-12 on the Good Works Team.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Laird said. “I didn’t go in creating the reading challenge expecting anything like that.”
After the former walk-on’s reading challenge, which kids could complete by reading either four (grades 1-2) or six (grades 3-6) books, they had the opportunity to see Laird get to work on the football field. During Cal’s season opener against UNC, 3,000 tickets were redeemed by students who completed the challenge, and an impressive total of 3,600 children participated in the challenge.
“I didn’t expect that many people,” Laird said after he met the kids who stayed to meet him after the UNC game. “I was sort of overwhelmed by emotions.”
Laird looks forward to reaching out to the other guys on the team and is perhaps looking to do some sort of community work in conjunction with them. He also added that he wishes to keep the reading challenge going next summer — though Laird will have graduated, he hopes one of his teammates will stand as a new representative.
Until then, the Good Works Team will be invited to the 2019 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans to participate in a special community service project, and Laird will look to finish out his 2018-19 campaign on a high note.
“I learned that I want to continue to do it,” Laird said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, but I know … education and improving the education system is going to be a part of it.”