Wednesday’s lesson in Beth Mader’s second-grade class at Central Manor Elementary School was about “dreaming big” — and a very big person helped her deliver it.
Chas Alecxih, a 6-foot-4, 295-lb. defensive tackle for the NFL Carolina Panthers, visited the class to encourage students to set realistic goals, work hard and learn to overcome obstacles.
It was a homecoming for Alecxih, a 2007 Penn Manor High School graduate who was a member of Mrs. Mader’s second-grade class 19 years ago.
Her students told Alecxih about their career dreams, and he shared how he was able to accomplish his goal of playing professional football, a dream he’s had since he, too, was a second-grader.
Alecxih played for Penn Manor and earned a scholarship to attend the University of Pittsburgh, where he played in 42 games as a defensive tackle.
He told students that his NFL career was marked by many challenges as he fought back from injuries while playing on four different teams.
A year ago, he was out of work following an injury. But Alecxih recovered and was signed to the Carolina Panthers practice squad, traveling with the team to the Super Bowl, an experience he described as “surreal.”
Mader kept in touch with Alecxih over the years and invited him to her class to talk about how a big career dream can become a reality.
“I had told my class what type of student Chas had been — compassionate, helpful, hard-working,” she said.
“So for his visit, I wanted them to actually meet him in person; then he could verify all the things I told them — that he played by the rules, welcomed everyone into the games at recess, listened to teachers and coaches.”
“They definitely connected to him. He is so sweet and down to earth,” Mader said. “He made them feel comfortable, and they looked at him with such admiration.”
Thanks, Chas, for inspiring our students to “dream big”!