Arizona Cardinals cornerback Elie Bouka teaches sportsmanship at local academy
QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. (KSAZ) - When Arizona Cardinals cornerback, Elie Bouka, gets on school grounds at the American Leadership Academy in Queen Creek, he's more than just a football player.
"It's almost magical, as cheesy as that sounds," said Kira Middleton.
The last six months for these students have been the most memorable at they take lessons on sportsmanship and leadership from Bouka himself.
"Your words are very powerful. Whatever you do in your everyday life is powerful," said Bouka.
Kira Middleton is the Behavior Intervention Specialist at the academy. Back in October, she noticed students were struggling and getting too competitive, which led to arguments and aggression.
"I really wanted to show them how to become leaders," said Middleton.
She looked toward NFL professional Bouka.
"Would you come even to do just a 30-minute pep talk for these kids? I know it would mean the world to them," said Middleton.
But Bouka in turn would give more than just one 30-minute pep talk.
"When they said he was coming, I thought he was going to come play football with us, but he didn't, he taught us," said Yara Zebian, a 5th grader at the American Leadership Academy.
"When he came in the gym, I cried, I was so happy he came," said a student.
Bouka assembled an entire program on sportsmanship, teaching students essentials that would eventually make them better. And each week, he returned for a visit.
"He taught us sportsmanship and how to play together. It was really fun," said Zebian.
"Keep working hard, don't give up and do my best," said a student.o
"He went from being this untouchable idol that they see on TV to a real mentor," said Middleton.
And these kids are now thanking him with an abundance of love, which for him, made the ultimate difference.
"I don't cry easily, but they changed by life," said Bouka. "They gave me more than I could even imagine."