The Bills played, the fans roared and there wasn't an empty seat in the house. And it wasn't even a Sunday game.
About 1,600 children from the Buffalo Public Schools were treated to a pep rally and game show with the Bills to kick off the fourth annual 'What Moves U' health and fitness campaign Tuesday at Kleinhan's Music Hall in downtown Buffalo.
Bills quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Gibran Hamdan, safety George Wilson, linebackers John DiGiorgio and Jon Corto and receiver C.J. Hawthorne gave fitness tips to the area youths and competed in a variety show quiz game hosted by quizmaster Dennis George.
Students clapped hands to the rhythm of the South Park High School band, jumping up and down in their seats as they anxiously awaited the appearance of the Bills.
The excited students cheered long before the Bills arrived and erupted with the appearance of mascot Billy Buffalo and the players. The announcement that one person from each of the nine public schools would win tickets to the Dec. 28 Bills game against the New England Patriots set the crowd into a frenzy.
Edwards, Wilson, DiGiorgio, Corto and Hawthorne raced out of the rear auditorium, high-fiving students before taking their places on stage. They then each gave a health tip for the students to live by.
Wilson described sleep as an essential part of maintaining a healthy body. DiGiorgio encouraged students to get outside and break a sweat and Hamdan talked about eating healthy as a means of gaining valuable energy. Hawthorne told students to start their days with pushups and sit-ups and Corto emphasized fitness as a long-term goal to be carried throughout one's life.
Students gave Buffalo's starting quarterback Trent Edwards a standing ovation before Edwards told students they should stay hydrated and healthy by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day.
George then asked health questions to students in the audience and invited those who answered correctly to run on stage and team up with the Bills for his variety quiz show about healthy eating and living.
Edwards, DiGiorgio and Hamdan teamed with two students while Wilson, Hawthorne and Corto teamed with five more. The two groups answered questions in a buzzer-like format, with the team with the correct answer ringing in before answering.
After completing one game, the two teams played a rubber match.
With the score tied and Edwards and Wilson matching up for the final question, a scene of pandemonium erupted as Edwards gave the winning answer of a health food starting with the letter 'O' (onion) to break the tie and bring the students to their feet. Edwards and Hamdan ran around in circles on stage with their student counterparts to celebrate their victory.
The event ended with Hamdan leading the entire Music Hall in a rendition of the popular 1990s dance the Macarena.
The program allows each participating school to monitor the students' health and fitness improvements over the next few months while educating them about more advanced health and fitness information.
The school will return for an end of the year quiz show to win prizes and show how much they have learned.
Wilson said the knowledge gained over the past two years of the program was stunning and that he expects this year's group to continue the trend.
"Hopefully through some of these classroom sessions, these teachers can expose them to some vital information to make it fun for them," Wilson said. "As you can see in that auditorium, these kids are excited about learning."
Hayley and Kyle of Discovery School 67 said the event made them excited about the Bills and their message of healthy living.
"It was really awesome," Hayley said. "It was a really nice experience to go and see them in person."
The two students said they weren't the only ones cheering. They said their classmates were cheering loudly and were very excited at the chance to complete the What Moves U program with the hopes of winning tickets to the Dec. 28 home game.
Wilson said his motivation within the program is to educate more students at a young age in hopes of preventing health problems in the future. He said the pep rally was only one way the Bills show their true commitment to health, with the other being the way they prepare their bodies and minds for Sunday.
"One thing about kids this day in age is that they're very intelligent," Wilson said. "Kids can read your body language, they can hear the tone of your voice and have a pretty good idea of whether or not you're telling them the truth. For us to be able to come out and share with them part of our lifestyle, part of our professionalism, and that experience gives our words credibility and merit."
Wilson said the Bills are more than happy to teach area youths the joys and importance of staying physically fit.
"Just being in this position and being in this platform, the guys try and take full advantage of it," said Wilson. "It's an honor and a blessing."