ELKHART — Nathan Palmer described the feeling as “overwhelming.”
More than 400 Beardsley Elementary students — their screams and squeals bouncing wildly off the concrete gymnasium walls — made the Elkhart native pause.
Keep in mind, this is an NFL player.
“I got a little overwhelmed talking to them. They sit there and soak it all up,” Palmer said Friday, April 26.
Palmer, a second-year wideout with the Indianapolis Colts, happily took time out of his offseason workout schedule to hang out with the young Bulldogs at the invitation of Endesha Bonner, the school’s PE teacher. Palmer grew up living across the street from Bonner as a youngster.
The message wasn’t anything new or startling, but the core of his words was important to Palmer — don’t be afraid to dream and persevere toward a dream.
Palmer, who shared that his mother “saw the dream,” randomly asked students what their goal was in life.
An answer of “football player” was easy to find. But Palmer was happy to find a child who aspired to be an art teacher.
“Let’s clap for the art teacher,” he said.
There was one who wanted to be a singer. There were hopefuls as a coach, an artist and a rock star.
“I like to sing, too,” said Palmer, who then broke out his best Chris Brown impersonation.
The former Central High School standout and Northern Illinois graduate dared the Beardsley kids to not just dream, but to “dream big.”
Palmer then stopped and acknowledged one last young boy who wanted to share his dream.
“What would you like to be?” Palmer asked.
Dalton Dickerhoof, a first-grader, quietly leaned toward Palmer’s microphone and said, “an entrepreneur.”
The crowd, especially the adults and teaching staff, embraced the response with applause.
“I don’t think I could even pronounce ‘entrepreneur’ at that age,” Palmer said afterward.
It was just the type of interaction Palmer hoped to create with his young audience.
“Takes me back to when I was a little kid, seeing Shawn Kemp on the playground. I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are amazing,’” Palmer said. “Now, it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m on the other end. I was the one on the floor back then.
“Seeing those little kids smile, having dreams, wanting to talk about dreams ... they’re so innocent,” Palmer said. “Whenever I have a bad day ... I take pics of all of it ... and I look at them. They’re the thing that keeps me going.”