ROCK ISLAND — Excessive celebration by football players at Augustana College's Ericson Field Thursday couldn't be ignored, but drew no penalties — only cheers, laughs and huge smiles.
A dozen students from the Black Hawk Area Education Center were given the chance to suit up in shoulder pads, uniforms and helmets in traditional Augie blue and gold,and try their football throwing and kicking skills.
Several also tried out their best touchdown dance displays.
''How could you throw any penalty flag on that excessive celebration,'' said Erik Westerberg, 20, an Augustana College junior and Academic All-American, majoring in education and mathematics.
'We made those kids' days,'' said quarterback Nick Welch, 22, a senior secondary education major.
Inviting the special education students to Augie'sfootball stadium was part of a ''performance capstone program,'' related to their education majors, and an emphasis on inclusion models.
Mr. Westerberg and Mr. Welch persuaded 11 teammates to join them and their 12 special visitors.
Kids were given a locker room tour, and spent time being introduced and introducing each other to the college players. Then, they got to try on pads, uniforms and helmets before taking the field.
it was the first time Gerald Carter, 13, ever was on a college football field or visited a college, he said. He had some football experience, playing in Challenger Football games sponsored by the Moline High School football program.
He said his Augieuniform fit well.''I like it, and I like to play football.''
He wasn't alone.
''This is great,'' said Dave Brown, vocational coordinator at the education center. ''All of them have the biggest smiles on their faces.
''This was a unique opportunity for them,'' Mr. Brown said. ''It was exciting to bring them here, because it's an experience they otherwise may never have gotten to enjoy.''
"I'm sure they'll remember this for a long time to come,'' Mr. Welch said.
''It was a very special day for us, too,'' Mr. Westerbergsaid. ''It feels incredible. We feel so blessed."
They handed out key chains to each visiting student that read: "What have you done to win today?"
''And they did win today, and will continue to win even in the circumstances they find themselves in,'' Mr. Westerberg said.
Many touchdowns were scored Thursday, and countless field goals were ruled good, albeit with help from Augie players who scooped up missed kicks and lobbed them through the uprights while cheering on each special-team's kicker.
It was hard sometimes to tell the difference between the college guys and their younger guests, in terms of enthusiasm, energy and touchdown-dance ''skills.''
''That was tight,'' one of the younger students was overheard saying as he left Ericson Field. ''I love this place.''
And his college hosts said they loved all the celebrations he and his friends shared with them Thursday.
Today is Thursday, April 24, the 114th day of 2014. There are 251 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We learn that it is a contemplation to start a paper mill in Rock Island during the summer by a gentleman from the East. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The gates of Oklahoma were swung open at noon today, and a throng of more than 30,000 settlers started over its soil. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The Iowa Coliseum Co. was incorporated with $40,000 capital and planned a building on 4th Street between Warren and Green streets in Davenport. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans are being discussed for resurfacing the streets in the entire downtown district of Rock Island. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Some 45 jobs will be created at J.I. Case Co.'s Rock Island plant in a expansion of operations announced yesterday afternoon at the firm's headquarters in Racine, Wis. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Gardeners and farmers cheered, but not all Quad-Citians found joy Saturday as more than an inch of rain fell on the area. Motorists faced dangerous, rain-slick roads as the water activated grease and grime that had built up during dry weather.