New Orleans Saints kicker Blake Grupe, an alumnus of Smith-Cotton High School, took time during the Saints bye week to return to his hometown of Sedalia and provide some inspiration for students at Horace Mann Elementary School, where he attended class from kindergarten through fourth grade. Grupe reminisced about his time at the school, shouted out some of his former teachers and fielded questions from the audience. He encouraged the students to pay attention and work hard in school, and to get involved in as many sports and activities as possible to find something they might excel at.

“I would say as early as you can, do as much as you can, because you never know what is going to be your path, what you are going to love,” Grupe said. “Whether it is a sport or a musical instrument or a club, go out and … have as much fun as possible.” One student asked Grupe what he is best known for; he laughed as he replied, “It depends on who you ask, but … I’m probably known for looking a lot younger than I am.”

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Horace Mann Principal Sara Pannier told the students, “Out of all of this, I hope you remember that a small-town boy from little Sedalia, Mo., did it; he made it big. He learned to persevere, he set goals for himself, he had high standards for himself and he achieved those goals. You all have that very same opportunity to be whatever you want to be, you just have to put your mind to it.” Afterward, Grupe said he was grateful to return to his roots and share some of his experiences and insights. “What I tried to stress to them was that I was sitting on that gym floor just like they were back then,” he said. “It is awesome to come back to a town that I know has my back and supports me. To do it at my school felt good.”

Grupe also shared a nugget of inspiration for today’s high school athletes from his personal experiences. “The one thing that has given me the chip on my shoulder, that I wish more people knew, is to never let anyone tell you what you cannot do,” he said. “There have been a lot of different obstacles on the road that I have been on, and if I listened to every single person who told me what I could or could not do the whole way, I surely wouldn’t be where I am at. So don’t be afraid to have that confidence in yourself and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and show them what you can do.”

Pannier had a mission in mind when she invited Grupe to address her students. “For starters, just let me say how grateful and thankful I am to have Blake Grupe come to talk to my students. I am so proud of Blake and his humble spirit,” she said. “His focus and determination are perfect examples for my students to learn a valuable lesson, ‘You can do anything you set your mind to do, so dream big and persevere!’ My goal as a principal is to help create as many memories as possible, to make school fun, and create a family atmosphere all while receiving a quality education. Blake helped me meet all of those goals in one day!”


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Gallery Credit: Emily Sherman

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