FORT MCCOY—On their one day off, three players from the Green Bay Packers paid a visit to the Challenge Academy at Fort McCoy.

Players Vince Biegel, Lucas Patrick and Damarious Randall ate lunch with cadets, got a tour of the living quarters, learned about life at the academy and even answered some questions themselves Tuesday afternoon.

It was awesome, said Biegel, a rookie linebacker.

“We had an amazing time,” he said. “Being able to kind of walk through their everyday life out here ... have lunch with them, see some of their bunks, spend some time with them and just kind of share a few messages, it was absolutely awesome. I’m very grateful that they were able to have us out here and definitely hope to come pay them a visit again in the future.”

Guard Lucas Patrick was happy to have the opportunity to speak with the cadets.

“If you can effect change in such a small environment, it’s a ripple effect and it can keep going,” he said. “I think it’s important to take any chance we can to speak to youth and make sure they know the right things.”

Patrick said he learned a lot from the students and was inspired by them.

“I thought I had it tough growing up, but I didn’t,” he said. “You learn a lot from the 16- to 18-year-olds who choose to come here. It’s a big commitment at that age to say, ‘I want to change my life,’ or ‘I want to be a better person.’ I don’t know if I could have done that ... these kids are probably more mature than most kids their age ... it teaches me a lot.”

Challenge Academy program director Kevin Greenwood welcomed the visit.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity because the cadets coming to the program ... they’ve been struggling,” he said. “They’ve either struggled in school, they’ve struggled with family, they’ve struggled with relationships. By having the players come here and talk about their individual path and their journey they took to get to where they’re at, there’s a lot of correlation there, and there’s a lot that the cadets can glean from what the Packers’ experiences were in growing and developing as a player and developing as a person.”

Cadet Carington Powell of Beloit enjoyed hearing from the players.

“I thought that was really admirable to see that they were going to come here and take time out of their busy schedules just to come see us,” he said. “I think that’s a really big thing, especially for someone with such a high status. ... So I was really happy to know that they took time.”

Cadet Adonica Hibbler-Tucker agrees.

“It was nice to hear them talk to us about inspiring things,” she said.

The Challenge Academy is a 22-week, all-volunteer program that offers students the opportunity to go through an intensive education of core components such as academics, physical fitness, health and hygiene to develop strength of character and to gain the life skills necessary to become successful, responsible students.

Biegel, a Wisconsin Rapids native who played at the University of Wisconsin, hopes he impressed on the cadets that everyone is different, no one is perfect and everyone has their own journey to follow. He wants them to focus on the future.

“I think what I saw today was a bunch of young men and young women who have a bunch of bright futures,” he said. “They’re super excited to make a better change for their life. I commend them all for being here. It’s not easy being here, a lot of sacrifice ... To be able to share a message and be a good role model and have some players here and be a positive influence has been absolutely awesome. I wish them all the best of luck in their endeavors moving forward.”

After graduating from the Challenge Academy Dec. 16, Powell hopes to go back to high school, get his diploma and eventually go to law school and become a lawyer. Hibbler-Tucker also plans to finish high school and hopes to become a residential architect.

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