By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DEWITT — NFL player Casey Kreiter made a trip back to his home community last month and made a stop at St. Joseph Catholic School.
Casey, a long snapper with the Denver Broncos, led a prayer before the St. Joseph vs St. Paul the Apostle (Davenport) boys’ basketball game Jan. 31. The game was part of the Catholic Schools Week “Pack the Gym Night.” Casey then stayed for autographs and pictures. “I stuck around to talk to as many families and kids as I could. I talked about whatever they wanted to talk about.”
Casey never attended St. Joseph school, but the 2009 Central DeWitt High School graduate feels it is important that he gives back to the community that has supported him.
Sharon Roling, principal at St. Joseph’s, said Casey is well known in the community.
Kirk Machovec, athletic director at St. Joe’s, asked Casey if he would come to the school. “I’m a big believer that if I don’t do these types of things, I’m not using my platform very well,” Casey said. “I was never able to meet professional athletes when I was that age and I put myself in their shoes and could only imagine what that would be like.”
Although he is not Catholic, Casey said he had no problem agreeing to do the prayer. While studying education at the University of Iowa, he completed his teaching practicum and student teaching at Regina Catholic Schools in Iowa City. “I really learned to respect and enjoy my time in a Catholic school.”
Roling said Pack the Gym Night was a wonderful event with more than 200 people attending. Gate admission for the game benefitted Kids Against Hunger. Almost $300 was raised and will provide more than 1,100 meals for children.
Kurt Kreiter, Casey’s dad and activities director at Central DeWitt Community School District, said his son is “very connected to our whole community.” Although Casey did not attend St. Joe’s, he had lots of teammates and classmates who attended St. Joe’s for grade school.
Casey’s late January/early February trip home was the first since last summer when he had a break from the Denver Broncos’ training camp and got married to his wife, Meghan. “If he continues in the NFL, it is likely he will only be able to return home a few times a year,” Kurt said.
In addition to the Jan. 31 game at St. Joseph’s, Casey also spoke at North Scott Junior High in Eldridge, where his uncle works. Casey spoke at Elkstrand Elementary in DeWitt to second and third graders and to the seventh grade chorus and STEM class at Central DeWitt Middle School. At the high school level he spoke to the high school band, boys and girls basketball teams, wrestling teams, FCA Huddle and a few youth sports teams.
“My big message,” Casey said, “was that kids can be whatever they want to be or do whatever their hearts desire. But, I wanted to be real with them and let them know the path isn’t easy or smooth. You will fail at times, you will face adversity, and it won’t all roses.
“Knowing that, I wanted them to understand that to reach their dreams they need to use (setbacks) to fuel their decision making from now until their success. Hard life decisions become easy when you have a goal in mind that shapes your decisions.”
St. Joseph student Hunter Manatt said, “Casey Kreiter was a good example for students that professional athletes can be good Christians who practice their faith. His presence made more people attend the game.” Sean McNamara added, “It was a cool experience to see someone from our town do something so great. It was also cool that even though Casey didn’t attend St. Joe’s, he would still pray with us.” Grant Olsen said, “It was a phenomenal experience because someone who grew up in the same town and had the same experiences as me could have such a great opportunity and it shows me that I can do that too. It was kind and generous of Casey to lead us in prayer and it shows he puts his faith before his athletics.”
Regarding the visit to St. Joseph’s, Casey said he commends the staff and athletes and their opponents on how well they played, but also for how respectful they were to him.