Packer fans have gotten used to seeing Evan Dietrich-Smith playing guard and center for their team since January 2010.

But on Tuesday, Sept. 24, Dietrich-Smith took center stage for a different crowd, as he addressed the students at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton elementary and middle school in Sheboygan.

Decked in their finest Packer attire, the 177 students, who range in age from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, were treated to an inspirational message from Dietrich-Smith. Stressing the importance of education, determination and hard work, he kept his young audience enthralled.

“I like doing things for kids. Anytime you can reach out and talk to kids and have an influence on them is kind of important to me,” the lineman said.

Dietrich-Smith, a California native, said as youngster he didn’t always put school first.

“I was more into sports than education and now being able to talk to kids about having an education and still being active is really something that is a big thing to me,” he said.

The Idaho State University alumnus also talked about the importance of pursuing dreams while making sure that pursuit was fun and enjoyable.

“Life is short … you have to make sure you’re having fun along the way,” he said.

In conjunction with Dietrich-Smith’s appearance, students collected food for a local food pantry, with a goal of acquiring the impressive center’s height and weight in pounds of food. They reached their 6-feet-2-inch, 309-pound goal.

“We made it!” School Sister of Notre Dame Betty Ann Uchytil, principal of the school, said.

It was Sr. Betty’s idea to piggyback the food drive with Dietrich-Smith’s appearance.

“I wanted it to be more than just a ‘famous football visit,’” she said. “I explained that, just like the Packers go out into the community to give back, we need to show Evan that we, too, want to and do various kinds of service to our community as a school.”

Bringing Dietrich-Smith to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the brainchild of Seton School board president, Mary Jante. Her daughter-in-law and Dietrich-Smith’s wife are good friends, and she believed his message, along with a food drive, would be inspiring for the kids.  

“Evan has a very compelling story,” Alan Jante, Mary’s husband, said. “Setting goals and working for them,” noting that the undrafted free agent had been released from the Packers and the Seattle Seahawks before he was called back to the Packers in time for the 2010 playoffs, which eventually ended in the Packers winning the Super Bowl.

“He was totally focused on making the team,” Alan Jante said.

Dietrich-Smith was also focused on giving the students an assembly they’ll long remember, and he was impressed with their community outreach.

“It’s a cool thing that the kids are working hard to give back to the community,” he said.