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Eagles present NFL grant at Philly school

For an afternoon, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were away from the questions about their 4-8 record, away from the glare that has followed them all season.

For an afternoon, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were away from the questions about their 4-8 record, away from the glare that has followed them all season.

Tuesday, on the Eagles' off day, Jackson and Maclin presented a $10,000 grant to Our Lady of Calvary school in Northeast Philadelphia for its work encouraging students to be more active. The award was given through the NFL's Play 60 program, which encourages health and fitness for young people.

Jackson and Maclin arrived to raucous cheers from pre-kindergartners through eighth graders, many wearing Eagles jerseys. Sister Mildred Chesnavage, the school's principal, had a Jeremiah Trotter jersey over her habit.

"Get out and do something active. It doesn't matter whether it's soccer, hockey, football, dancing. It really doesn't matter, just get out there and be active, and just do something that you love," Maclin said. "It doesn't matter if you're any good at it. At the end of the day, if you're enjoying it, that's all that matters."

Jackson had a similar message and added an anti-bullying comment, following up on another issue he has taken an active role in.

"Don't be the bully. Don't get in trouble and make something of your life you don't want," Jackson said.

Later he talked about the influence he and Maclin can have on the students.

"It makes a difference when they look up to us and they see we're professional athletes. They're growing up die-hard fans, so it definitely makes a difference," Jackson said.

Jackson has been under intense scrutiny this season and has been often criticized for his behavior. But while he can be moody on the field, he is equable when it comes to community efforts. He said he has been working with Play 60 since his rookie season.

"Regardless of the type of year it's been for myself, I still think it's important to go out and get in the community. What I'm able to do off the field people are not able to see firsthand," Jackson said.

Jackson said he "appreciates" coach Andy Reid's recent comments defending the receiver after reports that he was disengaged from his team on the sideline during the Eagles' loss to Seattle.

Eagles officials, though, immediately cut off questions about the team. An NFL representative had said "DeSean's people" didn't want questions about football.

Jackson's mother, Gayle, told reporters she had asked for football questions to be off-limits.

Gayle Jackson attended the event along with Maclin's surrogate father, Jeff Parres.

The school's volunteer swim coach, Ed Cox, was named a P&G Super Parent for his work with 109 members of the swim team. The school's athletic department received a $1,000 donation from Procter & Gamble.

"It's a lot of time" coaching, he said.

The school won the grant by putting together a September event that involved drills for the students that included kicking from tees, throwing, an obstacle course, and "blocking" on punching bags.

"I made do with what I could," said Maureen Kramer, a gym teacher at the school and a former La Salle basketball standout who was among the first women inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame.

The school also submitted two essays.

With only 35 minutes per week of physical education for the students, Kramer said, she tries to cram in as much activity as possible. Initial plans for the grant include buying padding for the gym walls so that students can more safely play in the somewhat confined space.

Wearing a Maclin jersey and with her nails painted green, Kramer reflected on what she said is a schoolwide enthusiasm for all things Eagles.

"The kids, you could hear by the way they cheered, they were flabbergasted," Kramer said.

The NFL awards the grants in all 32 league markets and two non-NFL markets.