Making academics a fantasy sport

He wants to expand Team Excel to other cities, and Lynch already has plans to adopt the program in his hometown of Oakland, California. Lynch and Wilson were several time zones from Richmond, so they didn't have face-to-face interaction with the Varina students. But Lynch, who is notoriously unchatty, did send his team a videotaped message of encouragement during the fantasy season.

"Hey, Team Marshawn," Lynch said in the clip, "what's up, man? Just wanted to say congratulations on keeping y'all's grades up. Now let's see how far we can really take this. Get some better grades.

"Mike's going to report back to me. ... Keep it up."

They did keep it up. Only one student dropped out of Team Excel, and 59 percent of the competitors raised their GPAs. Lynch's team had a 10 percent overall improvement in grades.

Just like Robinson did many years ago, kids started thinking about their future. Cooke, who almost quit that first morning, wants to be a veterinarian. Farmer, the gymnast, is doing more community service.

Nothing is missing anymore for Robinson. He'll say it, but nobody will believe it: His time with the kids in Richmond has been more rewarding than the Super Bowl.

"My goal is to affect people in a positive way," he said. "So I kind of look at this as the start.

"Honestly, I've been waiting my entire life for this point in my career."

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