Cats visit cubs, talk of importance of staying in school

By Jason A. Vrtis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 30, 1996

Tanith L. Balaban
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Steven Eichelberger, age 8, got his hat signed by Mikal Smith on Thursday at Manzanita Elementary where he and Keith Smith visited Cub Scout Troop 220.


The UA football team's Mikal Smith and Keith Smith spoke about the importance of staying in school and saying no to drugs to about 200 Cub Scouts and their parents Thursday night at Manzanita Elementary School.

The two University of Arizona students were the "mystery guests" of Cub Scout Troop 220, Manzanita Chapter, working in conjunction with the UA's CATS program.

CATS, The Commitment to an Athletes Total Success Personal Development Program, helps student-athletes prepare for the future off the field and provides them with the opportunity to be more well-rounded, said Program Coordinator Tracy Shake.

She said the program was created in 1989 by former UA Athletic Director Cedric Dempsey and current Associate Director of Athletics Rocky LaRose.

Over 200 UA student-athletes from all 18 varsity athletic teams volunteer for the program each year, Shake said.

"These athletes give a special gift to community by being role models for kids," Shake said.

Mikal Smith, starting sophomore defensive back, urged the Cubs to stick with school even if they dislike it.

"Make sure you do your work and try to get good grades, because if you do that you will have a better chance of being successful," he said.

He said both Keith Smith and himself did not get to where they are now by doing drugs.

Keith Smith, a red-shirt freshman and starting quarterback, echoed Mikal Smith's comments urging the scouts to stay positive about school.

"Don't give up on school," Keith Smith said. "It is going to get you where you want to be."

Later, both signed UA football posters for many of the scouts and their parents.

The scouts, ranging in age from five to 11 years old, were attending their first pack meeting of the school year.

One Cub Scout, 9-year-old Alejandro Ortega, said he was glad that the two athletes came to speak to them.

"I think I have heard what they were saying before, but I think I will be a bit more careful after hearing it from superstars," Alejandro said.

Bruce Schulman, Troop 220's Cubmaster, said the Cub Scouts and the CATS program have been working together for the past three years. He said when the UA student-athletes are "mystery guests," the meetings are always highly attended.

Mikal Smith, who has been involved with CATS for two years, said it was big thrill for him to speak to the Cub Scouts.

"I can't explain what it does for us to come out here and show them that you can do the right things and be successful," he said.

Mikal Smith acknow-ledged that being a football player at the UA makes him a role model to local kids.

"Little kids look up to people in sports. They see us in the paper and on television and they may not always want to listen to their parents so some of them listen to us," he said.

Keith Smith said he was a little nervous, but excited, about speaking. He said he was interested in the program because he wants to become more comfortable in front of kids - he hopes to become a teacher someday.

"It was nice to see their faces happy and full of joy when we spoke to them," he said.

Nicholas Francona, 11, the son of ex-UA baseball standout and former major-leaguer Terry Francona, said the talk was inspiring and that its message will work for many of the kids.

"I think that it is pretty cool that great UA players came and spoke to us because they are really great guys," Nicholas said.