Steelers starting cornerback Ike Taylor spoke to about 250 elementary students at Martin School on Tuesday afternoon, telling them the importance of teamwork.
"We all know with teamwork everybody's got to play their role," Taylor said.
The students met Taylor as a reward for their high math scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, the state standardized test given to elementary students starting with the third grade.
The school was recognized for its math scores jumping 13 percentage points in a year. It also was one of two schools in the state recognized with a national title, school Principal Donna Holtzman said.
Taylor underscored the importance of having good teachers during his visit to Martin School.
"Teachers are like second families," Taylor said. "It's always good to listen to your parents and teachers."
The 30-year-old Taylor, the Steelers' No. 24, sported a red, zip-up hoodie, jeans and winter boots. He went to college at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
Taylor fielded students' questions — both about on- and off-field topics.
When asked what his best game was, Taylor responded: "My best game is yet to come," but also noted the Ravens game of two weeks ago that the Steelers won in the waning moments.
Other football questions: Taylor said that chucking — bumping a receiver once near the line of scrimmage to disrupt a pass pattern — is what he does best; that it doesn't hurt when he's knocked down — "dropped," as the student questioner put it; and that game day is his favorite part of being a professional football player.
"My favorite part is Sunday — playing on Sundays," Taylor said. "Practice is OK, but I love playing on Sunday."
One student wanted to know who Taylor's favorite football player is.
"I could be selfish and say myself, but I would have to say Troy Polamalu," Taylor said.
Students also were curious about Taylor's life when he's not on the field.
One boy asked about what else Taylor does other than play football, to which he responded, "I play 'Madden' all day."
That prompted a question of whether Taylor sees his animated self on Madden, the popular NFL video game.
"I see myself all the time," he said.
Taylor posed for pictures with teachers and students, signed autographs and sat down on the gymnasium floor for cookies and juice with the kids.
Steelers pennants and paper helmets were taped to the gym wall, and many students wore black-and-gold outfits.
Taylor's visit was a surprise for the students — all they knew was that they were having a special black-and-gold Steelers Day. Then, an announcement came over the loudspeaker inviting them all to the gymnasium.
The school holds students from pre-kindergarten to third grades.
This was Taylor's first visit to New Kensington, and he reflected on driving along the area's bridges and seeing all the homes nestled on the hills.
Taylor was contacted through a friend of the district, not through the Steelers, Holtzman said.
"He did this as a goodwill gesture all on his own," she said.
Taylor also visited Grandview Elementary School in Tarentum briefly, but did not make a formal presentation to students.
Holtzman told the Martin students to keep Taylor's comments in mind.
"Remember what Ike told you: work hard, and it takes a whole team to get the job done," she said.
To Taylor — a father, himself — spending the afternoon at the school was important.
"All you can give kids is time," Taylor said. "Gifts and all the other stuff is cool, but the biggest thing is time."