Since he arrived in the NFL, Casey Hayward has needed little time for adjustment, but for perhaps the first time, the rookie cornerback was a little outside his comfort zone.
Hayward sat fidgeting in an undersized chair at the front of an empty classroom at Martin Luther King Elementary, but he had prepared for the moment.
As soon as Madison McMurdie walked in from lunch, Hayward gave her a quick hug and the room quickly filled up with her classmates. Hayward surprised her and the rest of the first-graders with a holiday visit, and he wasn’t empty-handed.
Hayward had full stockings and cupcakes decorated for Christmas to pass out, photos to sign and stories to tell. McMurdie stood alongside him at the front of teacher Jessica Westenberger’s class and called on the other students who had questions. He talked about his favorite Christmas gifts from when he was a child growing up in Georgia, the most memorable being a toy Jeep. Hayward told them about wanting a real car now that he was big.
The first question Hayward was asked: “Why did Madison get to stand next to him?”
McMurdie and Hayward have grown close since he arrived in Green Bay. Last summer, she and her parents lugged her bicycle daily to training camp so Hayward could ride it to practice. He picked her out of the crowd on the first day after he walked out of the locker room because he liked her tiny pink bike.
After that day, McMurdie hung a sign with his name on the handlebars, wore a No. 29 jersey and ran alongside carrying his helmet as he pedaled to every workout.
During the season he and her family have gotten together for dinner and they gave Hayward a couple of Christmas gifts after his classroom visit, including some small samples of Wisconsin cheese.
“It was fun to surprise her,” said Hayward, who wanted to do something special for McMurdie after all the hard work she put in during training camp.
“We’ve become friends, and it was fun to go to the class and spend some time with the other kids. I liked their questions, and I liked seeing the look on Madison’s face when she walked in.”