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Bills electrify Toronto secondary school

The library at Lincoln M. Alexander Secondary School in Toronto was never louder than on Tuesday when the Bills Toyota Rookie Club infused the school with life, excitement and a $3,000 donation.

Students lined the halls and pushed outside of the school in eager anticipation of the players' arrival. Bills rookies James Hardy, Leodis McKelvin, Steve Johnson, Chris Ellis, Jonathan Stupar, Xavier Omon, Marcus Buggs, Bruce Hall, and C.J. Hawthorne streamed off the team bus to a Beatles-like reception of screaming fans and an array of Toronto media.

The players made their way to the school's library, where they were greeted by faculty, staff and, once again, a crowd of screaming fans who got up and stood on their chairs, giving the Bills an applause that was fitting of a touchdown at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Excited Lincoln football players individually introduced the Bills, reciting the height, weight and position of each player.

The Bills rookies then delivered their lasting message.

"I know you're all trying to build a program," Hardy said after pumping his fist in the air. "I just wanted to let you know you're going to do it together."

Hardy told the students the game of football brings unity and excitement and that it was up to each student to use their God given talents both on and off the field.

"You've got to go all out, have no fear, and give 100 percent in everything you do, no matter what it is," Hardy said.

Hall told students the true key to success is found in day-by-day diligence and preparation.

"It's hard work, dedication, taking pride in what you do," Hall said. "Just going out there, every day, wanting to get better, whether it's on the field, perfecting your craft or in the classroom."

Johnson quickly became the crowd's fan favorite, as the crowd cheered wildly each time he stood up to speak.

Johnson compared education to the key that opens up a lockbox filled with goals.

"Education is the key to opening up that box and getting what you need," Johnson said.

One student asked the team whether they ever got picked on in their younger years.

Hardy jumped out of his seat, came over to the boy and explained to everyone that if someone was picking on them, then that person saw something in them they didn't see in themselves. He encouraged students not to judge anybody.

Hardy later explained the true quality needed for success.

"You can play any sport, but if you don't have it right here (pointing to his heart), it's not going to come out," he said.

At the conclusion of the brief question and answer session, Ellis announced the Bills would donate $3,000 to the recently established Lincoln football program.

Lincoln head coach Matt Ferguson said he started the team to give kids something to do. He said some of his 44 players had never seen a football game before they started playing at Lincoln.

Ferguson said the Bills' donation will help his team "vastly" and allow the program to buy a blocking sled. Currently, Lincoln shares equipment with a nearby little loop football league.

Lincoln defensive back/outside linebacker Henry Minnis said the Bills pushed Lincoln to do more than they thought was possible with education. He said the excitement of the visit would stay with him for "a few weeks."

Lincoln running back Michael Parchment said Johnson's message about education opening up the lockbox really stuck with him.

The team, currently 1-4, hopes to close out its season with two more victories, the first today against rival Turner Fenton.

"It'll give us that drive to beat Turner," Minnis said.

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